With the announcement that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are to merge, calls in the US to cease funding the PA have begun to be addressed. However, what seems to have slipped everyone's attention in all this is the elephant in the room. The elephant that increasingly occupies much else in the Middle East...
The PA chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, cannot have failed to comprehend the US response to such a move. In the not too distant future, we are told that a Palestinian State is to be declared (most likely September). For years, Hamas - the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood - has been at the throat of the more secular PA, after the PA refused to cede to Hamas in a landslide election defeat in the Palestinian territories in 2006.
Following the elections, a short but intense civil war broke out between the two factions in Gaza in which Hamas took control. Fatah, led by the PA maintained control of the West Bank. Fatah is the only 'non-terrorist' group declared in this rivalry, a position it has obtained due to its involvement in the fruitless Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993. However, Fatah's hold on power following the 2006 elections would seem to have made it an unlawful presence (much to the chagrin of the US and Israel). But the US and Israel were loathed to acknowledge this fact, not only because their horse, Fatah, had lost the elections, but due to the power and backing of Hamas, by Iran; the current Strong Horsein the region.
Following the declaration of a Palestinian State, it would not be hard to imagine that if the PA and Hamas were still rivals, a repeat of the violence we saw in 2006 would occur. But with the possible inclusion of more actors, including Hezbollah (via Syria), more extremist followers of the Muslim Brotherhood via Egypt (such as the ones in Gaza that killed the Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni), and myriad other proxy militia, all against the PA, the PA would stand no chance.
So this unity coalition move by the PA not only means avoiding such an acrimonious fight, but also means the PA's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, maintains a hold on power, even though it will be somewhat less than he has now. And the threat to cease funding the PA? The tab will be picked up by Iran. As the widely publicised 3rd intifada nears (May 15th), it would be hardly possible for the PA to engage in open warfare with Israel, without having its patron (the US) kick up a serious fuss. This move then, is simply the PA changing patrons, although this transition of power is likely to be done quietly.
Such moves by the PA serve to only further the claim that Israel is the US's only true ally in the region. We can see that after years of the US attempting to bring both sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict together, Mahmoud Abbas has seemingly done a 180 degree u-turn and placed his vote with a country that has vowed to 'wipe Israel off the map'.
Update: It seems I wasn't the only one to spot this shift of Mahmoud Abbas to Iran. Over at CIC, Stephen McDonald arrived at the same conclusions:
"Iran has endorsed the Hamas-Fatah marriage. This despite claims by some that a unity agreement offers an opportunity for Hamas to be separated from its attachment to Iran. The logic being, when pulled out of isolation with the West, Hamas will no longer need the support of its paymasters in Tehran.
What evidence is there to support such a noble belief? The facts indicate precisely the opposite."