Even if he were able to arrive at a peace deal with Israel, his limited street credibility – dented further by the Al Jazeera leak – calls into question his ability to make it stick with people like Ali Ahmed, a grocery shop owner in Ramallah.
"No one has given the Jews as much as [Abbas] gave them in land, in borders and security,'' says Mr. Ahmed. "He gave a lot and gave up the struggle.''
After nearly two decades of peace talks failed to yield a state, Palestinians are growing weary of negotiations. Only 27 percent believe there will be a state in five years, according to a December survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. That skepticism prompted Abbas to boycott talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he refused to freeze Israeli settlements.
The ongoing rift has delayed national elections and fueled an atmosphere of political intimidation: In the same survey, only 27 percent said that West Bankers can criticize the authorities without fear.