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Palestinians left in disarray by ouster

Prime minister leaves a vacuum at delicate time

JERUSALEM — Salam Fayyad, the internationally respected Palestinian politician and economist, is widely credited for ending the chaos in the West Bank and putting things in order in his six years as prime minister.

But his resignation over the weekend, the result of internal power struggles, has left the Palestinian Authority suspended in political ambiguity and confusion.

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Analysts said Sunday that by accepting Fayyad’s resignation, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has put himself in a political bind just as the Obama administration has been trying to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

That, many Palestinians say, is because the vacuum created by Fayyad’s resignation presents an opportunity for renewed reconciliation efforts between Abbas’s Fatah party and its bitter rival, Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.

While healing the rift would be a popular course of action among Palestinians, it could complicate peace efforts and cause some Western donor nations to consider withholding much-needed funds, fearing that they could be used by Hamas.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and the European Union.

Under previous accords with Hamas, Abbas had agreed to lead an interim government as prime minister in preparation for long-overdue elections in the West Bank and Gaza, and might do so now.

‘‘My preferred path of action is that the president will form an independent and technocratic government for 90 days, then we will go to elections,’’ said Saeb Erekat, a senior Fatah official and an aide to Abbas. In that case, Fayyad would remain a caretaker prime minister while the consultations took place, Erekat said, adding: ‘‘How long will it take? Nobody knows.’’

Munib al-Masri, a West Bank industrialist who has promoted Palestinian reconciliation, said: ‘‘We hope the president will form the government and will hold elections as quickly as possible. This is what everybody is expecting. Without ending the division, we do not have a country.’’

Israel opposes reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas as long as the Islamist group refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and will not renounce violence.

‘‘We have always said that if the Palestinian Authority moves towards Hamas, it is moving away from peace and reconciliation with Israel,’’ an Israeli official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal Palestinian affairs publicly.

Palestinian analysts said that in any case, real reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas seems a long way off and that Hamas is not likely to commit to a date for elections or to a common policy with Abbas.

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