My old friend Danny Rubinstein, who has covered the West Bank pretty much since the occupation began, came over Friday afternoon. He had covered this week's expulsion of Palestinian residents from their disputed home in Sheikh Jarrah. He had just come from conversations with Palestinian journalists in East Jerusalem, and was not in a cheerful frame of mind.
ABBAS, YOU SEE, is not the point. He has been a force for reconciliation, perhaps the best partner Israel could ever have (or so former Labor minister Ephraim Sneh writes in today's Haaretz), but his personal prestige was never very great. That he is threatening to withdraw from politics is a symptom of danger, not a danger in itself. For Abbas has always been a kind of national working hypothesis: that Ramallah's secular bourgeoisie was a natural leadership to bring forth a state, and that its power to create the rule of law, and its prospects in the regional economy, justified patience; that the continuing flow of money from the international community justified having a person in the (albeit diminished) Palestinian Authority that outsiders could trust.