On Oct. 31, Abbas met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the
United Arab Emirates. Hours later, Ms. Clinton flew to Israel for talks with
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
"Peace must have its commitments — the complete halt to [Israeli]
settlement building," Abbas told a news conference after his meeting with
The sources said Abbas has told President Barack Obama as well as Ms.
Clinton that he was prepared to resign immediately amid the unprecedented
Palestinian criticism of his relations with Israel. They said Abbas demanded
pressure on Israel for immediate political concessions, including a
withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.
Abbas has been under increasing pressure not to run for another term as
PA chairman in elections he set for Jan. 24, 2010. In an unprecedented move,
a Fatah leader said Abbas would step down from power in 2010 as part of a
reconciliation accord with Hamas.
"He [Abbas] is eager to rest from this long and arduous trip, which
began with the revolution and continues to this day," Abdullah Abu
Samhadaneh, an exiled Gaza governor and now member of Fatah's Revolutionary
Later, Abbas denied that he planned to resign. At the same time, his
supporters urged Fatah to declare him the candidate in the January
The sources said Abbas sent envoys to the Obama administration that
warned of the prospect of a coup in Ramallah. In late October, PA chief
negotiator Saeb Erekat held meetings with senior administration officials
regarding the sharp decline in Abbas's popularity in wake of the PA decision
not to relay a report that accused Israel of war crimes to the United
Nations Human Rights Council.
The sentiment against Abbas, however, was said to have been detected in
wake of Fatah elections in August 2009. The sources said that for the first
time Fatah's Central Committee and Revolutionary Council contained a
significant number of members deemed "secret opponents" of Abbas.
"These are people who praised Abbas to his face and quietly told others
that he was finished," the Palestinian source said. "Now, they believe he
must be replaced."
The sources said the Obama administration hopes the PA chairman would
step down and be replaced by the team of Prime Minister Salam Fayad and
former Fatah security chief Mohammed Dahlan. They said the White House has
held strategy sessions with both Fayad and Dahlan regarding the prospect of
sucession in 2010.
At the same time, Abbas ordered the media in the West Bank to support
his candidacy for PA chairman. The PA-owned media have been publishing
in support of another term for the chairman.
"The truth is that the president [Abbas] is the best and most suitable
candidate who has the ability to defend the cause, the unity of the homeland
and people and the Palestinian democratic and political system," Omar Al
Ghul, a columnist for the PA daily Al Hayat Al Jedida, wrote.
Abbas has also encountered opposition to his call for elections. Senior
Fatah members have warned that any election must be part of a reconciliation
effort with Hamas. Hamas has already warned that it would not permit
Palestinian elections to be held in the Gaza Strip.
"Elections can't be held before the rivalry comes to an end," Marwan
Barghouthi, who is serving a life sentence in Israel, said in a statement.
"National unity, and protection of the Palestinian political system are our
compass toward completing our national duties. This is far more important
than all partisan and individual interests."