By Harry de Quetteville
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, yesterday forged ahead with a referendum calling for de-facto recognition of Israel, despite widespread rage following an apparent missile attack that killed seven civilians in Gaza.
**you have to wonder if the attack by Israel was in fear that Palestine might just recognize Israel. There's nothing Israel fears more than peace breaking out...EG:) **
Hamas later described the announcement, that a referendum would be held on July 26, as a "coup attempt" by Mr Abbas. It brought its months-long ceasefire to an end by launching more than a dozen homemade missiles on southern Israeli towns. The only victims were four Palestinians, who were injured when one rocket went astray.
The artillery strike has made Mr Abbas's political position deeply uncomfortable: while he appeals for moderation, many Palestinians feel they live under a deadly barrage that merits retaliation.
Before Friday, polls revealed almost 80 per cent support for the referendum, which calls for a national unity government, an end to attacks in Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
But that figure could fall in the face of a marked escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants.
Like Mr Abbas, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has been politically isolated by the beach blast. He faces global condemnation for the attack just as he arrives in London today as part of a European tour.
Mr Olmert will be keen to muster support for his "convergence" plan, under which Israel will evacuate 70,000 settlers from the West Bank and unilaterally settle Israel's final borders.
The Israeli leader has long argued that his country will not "wait for ever" for a Palestinian "partner for peace".
Despite the efforts of Mr Abbas, it seems that now that partner will be even harder to find.