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Can diamonds do magic for Qatari-Israeli ties?                            

Though they have no diplomatic ties, a deal on free trade could normalize aspects of relations between the two nations

Illustrative negotiating table with Israeli and Qatari flags (Image: Shutterstock)

A commercial agreement between the Gulf state of Qatar with the Jewish state regarding free trade for diamonds and gold has given rise to speculation that perhaps broader peace may yet be possible across the Middle East.

Unlike the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain or Morocco, Qatar is not part of the Abraham Accords. On the contrary, Qatar opposed the Abraham Accords and has been boycotting Israel for years. In fact, the conservative Gulf State has emerged as an important financial backer of the Islamist terrorist organization, Hamas, which openly calls for Israel’s destruction and is the ruling party in the Gaza Strip. 

While it is unlikely that official diplomatic relations will be established anytime soon between Jerusalem and Doha, could the important diamond industry, bring Qatar and Israel closer? 

Qatar wants to establish a free trade zone for gold and diamonds and needed the Jewish state’s permission to join the member states engaged in the global diamond industry, the Israeli business news site Globes reported.

In return, Qatar will open its borders to Israeli diamond traders and even permit them to open offices in the Qatari capital Doha, according to the report. 

This emerging commercial Qatari-Israeli revolution is remarkable given the fact that there are currently no official diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Doha. While Qatar may not be in a hurry to formalize relations with the Jewish state, Qatar is eager to become an important international commercial hub and get a foothold in the lucrative diamond industry where Israel is a global leader. 

Senior representatives of Qatari and Israeli foreign ministries reportedly signed the diamond agreement, which indicates that when it comes to business, pragmatism trumps ideology. 

The Israeli diamond industry’s history began in the 1930s during the British Palestine Mandate when European Jewish immigrants brought the trade from Belgium and established several facilities in the Tel Aviv area and Netanya. The Palestine Diamond Exchange was established in 1937 and eventually changed its name to the Israel Diamond Exchange. Located in Ramat Gan outside Tel Aviv, the Israel Diamond Exchange is one of the largest and most important in the world. The Israeli diamond industry is thriving despite the pandemic. 

The export of Israeli polished diamonds rose 71% and reached $2.37 billion in 2020. Since the historic Arab-Israeli Abraham Accords in 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as an important Middle Eastern market for Israeli diamonds. In April 2021, approximately 13% of Israel’s rough diamond export went to the UAE, reaching a monthly total of $18 million. 

While Qatar has to become formally approved by the international Diamond Exchange Federation, the Qatari-Israeli agreement will greatly facilitate this endeavor. The Abraham Accords have been a blessing for the diamond trade in the Middle East. The Emirati Dubai Diamond Exchange already serves as an important connection between Israeli diamond merchants and traders from countries like Qatar that still do not have official diplomatic relations with Israel. 

Globes reported that the Israeli Diamond Exchange welcomed the agreement with Qatar, which would likely open up new export markets for the Israeli diamond industry.  

While larger volume trade between Qatar and Israel will likely take time to take off, the diamond agreement signifies an important step toward more normalized relations between Doha and Jerusalem since Qatar broke off commercial ties with the Jewish state in protest against Israel’s anti-terrorism Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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