Crying 'Wolf'

Resignation, or rather the threat of resignation, is not an invention of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser used to wield the same weapon to boost his public support, and Yasser Arafat would from time to time threaten to quit just to shake up public opinion. It is true that Abbas sounded adamant yesterday, but within the past year he has made decisive announcements on other matters only to backtrack later. He accepted the resignation of his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, only to reappoint him. He pushed for the submission of the Goldstone commission report to the United Nations, but reconsidered and shifted course again.

He hinted that he would resign, and then denied it. He declared elections in January as a threat against Hamas and now he is saying he doesn't intend to stand for reelection, but has left open the door for reconsideration. If his conditions for resumption of negotiations with Israel are accepted or if Hamas agrees to elections in June instead of January as part of a conciliation agreement with Fatah, Abbas could justify staying in office.

Despite international calls for him to stay on, from the moment Abbas demanded an immediate and total freeze of construction in the settlements as a condition for negotiations, he brought the negotiating track to a dead end. The Palestinian president misread the diplomatic map in believing that the Americans would stick to their initial firm demands for a construction freeze.

Abbas has portrayed himself as the only Palestinian partner for peace. He threw down the gauntlet to that effect on the White House lawn, but he could find himself paving the road for the opponents of peace while his gauntlet lies abandoned in Obama's front yard.