As the Palestinian Authority (PA) begins to suffer from a shortfall in foreign aid, it seems increasingly clear that the PA's efforts to forge a more assertive diplomatic approach to Israel — namely, through entering into a reconciliation agreement with Hamas and its intention to pursue recognition of statehood at the UN this September — may well prove disastrous. In the case of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, which has partially informed the US Congress' recent threat to withdraw the $500 million in US aid promised to the to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Authority stands to lose not only critical sources of aid, but the international credibility they have earned as a result of PM Salam Fayyad's state building efforts since Fatah took control of the PA in 2007. Ironically, the Palestinians appear to have fallen victim to a very familiar trick by interested regional powers — Egypt and Syria — which have orchestrated and supported the deal as a means of exerting leverage against the West amidst the maelstrom of the Arab Spring. For all the change shaking the Middle East, some practices die hard: with this unity deal, the Palestinians have once again been used as a political football by the same regional power players who have historically manipulated the Palestinian cause to suit their own strategic needs.
Egypt's intimate involvement in forging the unity deal was consistent with its longstanding involvement in Palestinian issues. Prior to making peace with Israel in 1979, Egypt participated in the first four Arab-Israeli wars and orchestrated the founding of the PLO in 1964. Since committing to the Camp David Accords, Egypt has situated itself as the lynchpin of Israeli security, and a crucial brokering power for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This has been the source of its security guarantee from the United States and the substantial military aid which has become crucial to Egypt's economic and political stability.