Mahmoud Abbas's decision to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections at the beginning of next year is seen by some of his aides as one of the strangest moves he has made since he was elected to succeed Yasser Arafat five years ago.
The Islamic movement has already made it clear that it won't participate in the elections. Moreover, Hamas has declared that it won't allow the vote to take place in the Gaza Strip and would punish any Palestinian there who is involved in the electoral process.
Hamas's decision means that the elections, when and if they are held, would be confined to the West Bank, where Abbas is partially in control, and perhaps some areas in Jerusalem that are under Israeli sovereignty.
Abbas's opponents can then argue that since the election was not held in the Gaza Strip, he does not represent the entire Palestinian people. As Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel explained: "Abbas will then become the mayor or governor of the West Bank."
As such, maintaining the status quo would be the best option for Abbas. Under the current circumstances, Abbas can always argue that he represents a majority of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who voted for him in the 2005 presidential election.
If Gaza is excluded from the planned elections, Abbas or whoever replaces him as head of Fatah will never be seen as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This means that the new Palestinian leader would not have a mandate to negotiate or sign a peace agreement with Israel because he was not elected by a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
ABBAS'S DECISION to call the new elections came after the Egyptians failed to reach an agreement between Hamas and Fatah on ending their power struggle. The two rival parties were supposed to sign an Egyptian-brokered "reconciliation" accord in Cairo last month.
But the signing ceremony was called off indefinitely after Hamas announced that it would not reach any deal with a "traitor" like Abbas.