Daled Amos shows that this is Abbas' equivalent of a temper tantrum, and that he has made these threats numerous times before:
March 18, 2008The scenario is the same. Abbas feels insecure (as well he should - his leadership abilities are nil) so he regularly stages these threats, and in response he gets lots of adulation from diplomats and "spontaneous" demonstrations from his people.
Exclusive: Abbas threatens to quit peace talks, revive Fatah terror
(OK, Abbas is not threatening to resign--but we're just getting warmed up...)
Jan 17, 2008
Abbas threatens to quit if 'escalation' continues
June 12, 2007
Fatah movement threatens to quit Hamas-led unity gov't
February 26, 2006
Abbas threatens to quit over Hamas
(Feb 28, 2006 Abbas: I did not threaten to quit)
30 January 2006
Abbas to resign if Hamas fails to work with foreign powers
January 25, 2006
Palestinians Vote in First Legislative Elections in a Decade
Abbas is "a touchy man of dark moods, who often threatens to quit, as he quit as prime minister after four months in 2003 when Mr. Arafat did not allow him enough power."
Jan 17, 2006
PA head Abbas threatens to quit
December 16, 2005
Palestinian Chief Threatens to Quit Over Rival Fatah Slate
March 30, 2005
Palestinian Abbas threatens to quit unless Fatah groups cooperate.
Wed 09 Sep 2003
Abbas threatens to quit unless he gets more authority
Thursday, September 4, 2003
Abbas threatens to quit over leadership
Aug. 21, 2003
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas threatens to resign unless Yasser Arafat approves a crackdown on Hamas
July 9, 2003
U.S. Supports Abbas After Palestinian Leader Threatens to Quit
April 08, 2003
Moderate Palestinian PM threatens to quit as Arafat hinders change.
In this case, the idea that he is resigning is equally absurd. John Podhoretz thinks it is a gambit to overshadow Netanyahu's meeting with Obama, but I think it is a bit more that that.
Abbas thought he had Obama on his side in his (brand new) demand that all Jewish building to the east of the old Green Line stop completely before negotiations resume. Then, Hillary Clinton told him that they got Israel to curtail settlement building but not stop it completely. From Abbas' perspective, he needs to raise the stakes to get America to adhere to his position and pressure Israel - and, more importantly, take the pressure off himself. His threats to resign means he is saying to play his way or he'll make sure that no one gets to play at all.
This is entirely consistent with Abbas' leadership style, or lack of it. He is deathly afraid of making an unpopular decision - yet negotiations require compromise. He simply says "no" to everything and pretends that this is what a strong leader does. The threat to resign is just a gambit that he has used in the past to shore up support.
And boy has he been getting that support! Hillary said she loves working with him, and his own Fatah organized rallies to support him. Meanwhile, he continues to press the US on the settlements, which is not something you would expect from someone who is a lame duck.
The idea that he would give up leadership of Fatah is even more absurd. Abbas managed to successfully cement his leadership of that organization in August at the Fatah conference, and he is not going to throw all that away in a fit of pique.
It is theatre.