More than three years after he decided to boycott peace talks with Israel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas finally agreed last week to return to the negotiating table.
Abbas's decision came after a series of meetings with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who took it upon himself, ever since he assumed office, to revive the stalled peace talks.
Kerry's dramatic announcement last Friday in the Jordanian capital of Amman about the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks did not come as a surprise to many Palestinians, especially those familiar Abbas's performance.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman, Jordan, on June 29, 2013. (Source: U.S. Department of State)
By agreeing to resume the peace talks with Israel, Abbas is taking a big gamble.
His critics argue that Abbas dropped all his previous conditions for resuming the peace talks, particularly a full cessation of settlement construction and Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines.
The critics claim that all what Abbas received from Kerry were "verbal assurances" that Israel would accept his conditions. The critics maintain that in the eyes of Abbas's people, the absence of written assurances from the Americans will undermine his credibility.
Abbas's decision has already earned him the wrath of many Palestinians, including members of his Fatah faction.
With the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions have come out against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry's terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples' Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Kerry's announcement came exactly 24 hours after PLO officials held a stormy meeting in Ramallah during which they refused to support the idea of resuming the peace talks unless Israel accepted all their demands.
Among Palestinians, it was impossible to find one individual or faction or movement that welcomed Kerry's announcement about the resumption of the peace talks.
For now, Abbas appears to be determined to swim against the tide, prompting many Palestinians to denounce him for committing "political suicide."
So what drove Abbas to say yes to Kerry?
Palestinians in Ramallah said this week that Abbas was being "dragged" against his will to the talks with Israel.
"President Abbas could no longer tolerate the immense pressure put on him by Kerry," explained a Palestinian Authority official.
The official said that Kerry had "threatened" to hold Abbas responsible for the failure of his mission to revive the peace process -- a threat that apparently scared the Palestinian Authority president into softening his position.
Some Palestinian officials have also talked about another threat made by Kerry -- this time to suspend financial aid or impose economic sanctions against the Palestinian Authority. That threat also left Abbas in a state of panic, the officials said.
Other Palestinians, however, believe that Abbas's decision is no more than a clever political gambit. They say that Abbas will return to the peace talks for a number of months, after which he will once again pull out and hold Israel fully responsible for the failure of the peace process.
Abbas will pull out of the talks once he realizes that Israel is not going to accept all his demands, foremost a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and the "right of return" for Palestinians to their former homes inside Israel.
Pulling out of the negotiations and blaming Israel for "obstructing" peace would facilitate Abbas's original plan to embark on unilateral measures such as seeking full membership of a Palestinian state in the United Nations and its agencies.
The last time Israel was blamed for the failure of the peace process was in the summer of 2000, when Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat rejected former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer at the botched Camp David summit.
Arafat returned to Ramallah to tell Palestinians that Israel does not want peace. A few weeks later the second intifada erupted, claiming the lives of thousands of Israeli and Palestinians.
The same scenario is likely to be repeated when and if Abbas walks out of the Kerry-sponsored peace talks -- an action meaning a third intifada might be on its way.
U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton's attempt at the time to force Arafat to make peace with Israel was what paved the way for the second intifada. Kerry, by forcing Abbas to agree to something that most Palestinians are not willing to accept, appears to be moving in the same direction.