Fayyad sees a de facto attempt to undermine the Palestinian Authority. “I still believe the Authority is a key building block in the effort to resolve the conflict,” he said. “Then somebody needs to explain to me how something viewed as central to building peace is left on the ropes for three years, reeling under bankruptcy, and every action is taken to erode its political viability.

“We have sustained a doctrinal defeat. We have not delivered. I represent the address for failure. Our people question whether the P.A. can deliver. Meanwhile, Hamas gains recognition and is strengthened. This is the result of nothingness. It is not just that we have been having a bad day.”

Part of that “nothingness” emanated from Obama’s Washington. “After the failed attempt to stop Israeli settlement expansion, the administration gave up,” Fayyad told me. “After the first year in office, U.S. diplomacy shifted to maintenance — getting a process going rather than looking at the issues.”

So there has been negative drift, largely peaceful but increasingly uneasy. “The risk this situation poses is of sliding back to a cycle of violence,” Fayyad said. “When you keep getting banged on the head, you know one day it will be one bang on the head too many.”

He identified some of the issues: settlement expansion; Israeli military incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas; the failure to extend the Palestinian security presence in the West Bank; the “complex and capricious” process of gaining access to the more than 60 percent of the West Bank known as “Area C” and under direct Israeli military control; the Israeli use of tax revenues as a spigot that can be turned on and off to hurt the Palestinian Authority; the lack of access to 3G technology and Israeli control of frequencies; the difficulty of exporting to Israel. All of these factors together, Fayyad said, had made governance “an exercise in impossibility.”

Then, of course, there is the internal Palestinian question, now referred to as the “reconciliation” issue. The Palestinian national movement is crippled by its split. Hamas rules in Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah rule in the West Bank.

The Palestinians have still not decided whether the war is between two nationalisms with rival claims to the same land — one that could in theory be settled by territorial compromise, as Fayyad passionately believes — or whether it is an anti-colonial war, comparable to the Algerian conflict, whose end result must be the expulsion of the Jews and the destruction of the state of Israel, as Hamas contends.

The absolutist approach — not compromise at the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps but rejection of the 1947 U.N. resolution to create the modern state of Israel — has led to Palestinian defeat and humiliation. All the evidence is that it would continue to do so.

So far reconciliation talks have produced only accords that have proved meaningless. “This rivalry and instability are very destructive,” Fayyad said. “The most basic requirement for this plane to take off is, first, security. If we all commit to nonviolence, this will be basic to our interests. We need to formalize this: The path of nonviolence to freedom. If we can unify under that banner, it would be an adequate basis. After all, much of the current coalition in Israel does not subscribe to a two-state solution.” Hamas, the prime minister noted, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, with which the United States now “deals in an open way.”

The other essential ingredient for the Palestinian movement is elections this year, Fayyad said. “Elections are critical. The thing I lament most is the absence of a functioning legislature. We need to rebuild our political system democratically with elections in Gaza and the West Bank. Democracy cannot be holding an election once. I think President Abbas should issue a decree calling for elections and if Hamas says no, so be it.”

The prime minister continued: “I have no sense of entitlement. I have done what I could; I am completely satisfied over that and at peace with myself. I don’t want to be a source of pain to anyone. It is just not acceptable to continue doing this while preaching democracy. A functioning legislature can give you a pink slip. The fact that there is not one does not mean there should not be a self-imposed restraint.”

Fayyad has reached the limit. Fayyadism is another matter. “People will go back to this story,” he mused. “It was about a new way of thinking. And ideas have lasting power.”