Setback to talks: Due to frustration, a Palestinian leader steps down

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Palestinians, Israelis and Americans have been thrown into a quandary by the recent resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Mr. Fayyad served for six years and is considered to have been competent and honest. His resignation was supposedly due to the frustrations of trying to manage matters with the constraints imposed by the Israelis, plus differences with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Fayyad's departure will leave Palestinian affairs in a bigger mess than they were. The term of the president, Mr. Abbas, expired in 2009. He and Mr. Fayyad governed in the West Bank. Gaza, the other piece of Palestinian territory, is controlled by Hamas, which won the most recent elections. Scheduling of the Palestinian Authority's next elections remains in question. In the meantime, Israel, which controls the Palestinians' borders, tax collection and other economic life, and whose territory Israeli Defense Forces attack from time to time, is making even the choice of a successor to Mr. Fayyad difficult.

For the United States, which is showing renewed interest in reviving negotiations toward a settlement with Secretary of State John F. Kerry in the lead "shuttle" role, the departure of Mr. Fayyad and the ensuing Palestinian political chaos is not welcome. The Israelis, with a new, strange-bedfellow coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power, do not present a promising face to possible negotiations in any case.

The Israelis should be interested. International pressure on them to negotiate with the Palestinians is growing. The latest effort is an attempt by some athletes to boycott or reschedule the Union of European Football Associations' Under-21 Football Championship finals, which are set for June 5-18 in Israel. A serious approach to negotiations by the Israelis would help avoid such actions.

The Palestinians need to mobilize their political efforts on an urgent basis to find a credible successor to Mr. Fayyad. Mr. Kerry should continue to focus his early efforts as the leader of American diplomacy on getting Israeli-Palestinian talks going. A trip to Gaza, to meet with the Palestinian leaders, thus encouraging Fatah-Hamas coordination, would help a lot.

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