Once the argument between Fatah and Hamas became an armed conflict verging on a civil war, Abbas had the authority to declare a state of emergency, which allows him to rule by decree. But under the Basic Law, the state of emergency elapses after 30 days unless it's renewed for another 30 days by the Hamas-controlled parliament, which also has the right to review the president's decrees.
There may actually be more grounds for hope on that score in the West Bank and Gaza. Although Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament last year, its edge in the popular vote amounted to just two percentage points, and polling indicated that its supporters' main motivation was disgust at Fatah's corruption, as opposed to support for terrorism.
In fact, while a large majority of Palestinians tell pollsters that Israel has no right to exist, most also say Hamas should abandon its goal of destroying Israel. According to a March poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, most Palestinians continue to support a two-state solution.
Furthermore, a May survey by Near East Consulting found that nearly 70 percent of Palestinians favored early elections, which Abbas is now promising. That finding suggests an argument the Bush administration can use if it refuses to admit its support for democracy is conditional: We sacrificed democracy to save it.