Most of the Palestinian and Arab commentary I've seen since his announcement falls into three basic trends: the first thinks he's bluffing, attempting to leverage his weakness into pressure on the U.S. and Israel; the second thinks it's irrelevant, because the elections will not actually be held in January; and the third is cheering his departure, and hoping that it will lead to a collective admission that the PA's strategy has failed. The three perspectives are obviously not mutually exclusive. When I asked leading Palestinian academic Salim Tamari yesterday about the impact it would have on the peace process, he just looked at me quizically and said "what peace process?"A reasonable question. I confess to still being among the skeptics, in that I'm not sure he really means it. He said he had "no desire" to run; that suggests he could be open to persuasion. If he does mean it, it would indeed reshuffle the deck, but in whose favor? It's always dangerous to bluff with a weak hand, and I fear ‘Abbas' hand is pretty weak at the moment.
January elections, I must say, seem less likely now: Hamas was already refusing to hold them in Gaza, and now Fatah has no immediate candidate.