Al-Masri's new Palestine Forum reflects public desire to reconcile Hamas and Fatah.
Heidi Levine/Sipa Press/NEWSCOM
Ramallah, West Bank
Munib al-Masri says if he were smart, he would have retired and moved to Tuscany by now. Instead, the billionaire businessman is using his golden years to launch al-Muntada al-Filistin, the Palestine Forum, through which he hopes to bring his society's warring political faction to a point of national reconciliation.
On Thursday, Mr. Masri's used the nascent forum to create a platform aimed at putting secular Fatah and Islamic Hamas on the same state-building team. Among the main points, the initiative calls for new elections in six months to a year – for both the Palestinian legislative council and the office of the presidency – in what could amount to a move to replace President Mahmoud Abbas. Within two months, Muntada plans to bring together Palestinians at a big reconciliation conference. The initiative also calls for a complete reform and integration of the various Palestinian security forces, which are each allied to different political groups and militias.
"We do not have a magic wand, and the situation is extremely difficult, but the forum's initiative will have to succeed," Masri, a tall, slim and blue-eyed Nablus native, told skeptical reporters yesterday. In a separate interview, he explained why he hasn't retired to Italy, or to England, where his son and wife live.
"This is what I've wanted for a long time. We want to be the conscience of the people. We want to say to the government, to both sides, you are making a mistake," he explains. "We met many people in all the districts of the West Bank, and they are all in favor of this."
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