European and American representatives who recently met with Abbas confirm the reports.
The current diagnosis is that Abbas has lost control, as well as the confidence of those close to him, cancels meetings, and falls into depression from time to time. The Palestinian Authority, at least in Gaza, is close to total governmental collapse, the reports say.
The reports are that Abu Mazen has told closed forums that he is unable to control the situation "on the ground," and that he regrets not being able to carry out his promises and his plans.
Israeli diplomatic and military sources say that in light of this news, Israel must prepare for a situation in which there is no one with whom to negotiate - leading Israel to resort to further unilateral gestures, in coordination with the U.S. and the international community.
Many officials in the Kadima Party, from party leader Ehud Olmert on down, have said that Israel will consider further unilateral withdrawals, giving away almost all of Judea and Samaria within a number of years.
Abu Mazen has already said that he will not seek another term as PA Chairman, a position to which he was elected only last year.
He is not the only one in the PA who feels that his political days might be numbered. Many members of Fatah, the organization he heads and which formed the backbone of the original PLO, reportedly no longer see Abu Mazen as their leader. Abu Mazen and Gaza strongman Muhammed Dahlan are barely on speaking terms, and Fatah fears that the coming elections will lead to a Hamas victory. Fatah is particularly upset at Abu Mazen's consent, in concert with the U.S., not to postpone the elections.
Huberman reports that though it was earlier felt that Abu Mazen might wait until a few days before the elections to cancel them - in order to head off Hamas terror attacks that would follow the cancellation - "he has now lost all his possible excuses for calling off the elections. The main excuse, Israel's decision to ban elections in Jerusalem, has become void, since Israel has decided to allow the elections - and they will be held with Hamas participation, no matter what Israel says."
The Palestinian Authority, the largest employer in the PA-controlled areas, is close to bankrupcy, Haaretz newspaper recently reported, and might not be able to pay even the February salaries of its more than 130,000 employees.
Abu Mazen failed to attain significant financial aid from Saudi Arabia, despite his recent trip there, and the aid from Egypt is also in danger.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice warned the PA yesterday that if Hamas is included in the new PA government, it could affect US-backed efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state. She did not threaten specific measures, however, such as cutting off financial aid to the PA. Privately, Rice has said that though a Hamas victory would mean trouble for Israel, it would be even more troubling for the U.S., which has strongly backed Abu Mazen in its Road Map efforts. Hamas is dead-set against the Road Map plan or any recognition of Israel.
The fall of the Palestinian Authority to a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization such as Hamas would be a major challenge to U.S. President Bush's foreign policy.
However, Hamas is currently not expected to win a majority, but rather only some 30%, Huberman says. This will mean a major dilemma for Israel, he adds:
"Hamas will have to be part of the coalition government with Abu Mazen, and then Israel will have to decide whether to have contacts with such a government or not. The Europeans have already proposed that Israel agree to talk with a Fatah-Hamas government, as long as Hamas representatives are not directly involved..."