The move could not come at a better moment. On Thursday, violence flared again as the Israeli air force struck targets in the Gaza Strip, killing seven Palestinians, including the son of a hard-line Hamas leader. In recent days, Hamas militants have been pounding the Israel town of Sderot with dozens of missiles and rockets, killing an Israeli on Wednesday, and on Thursday, injuring the bodyguard of an Israeli cabinet minister. In the past two days, 17 Palestinians have been killed.
At the root of the initiative is a recent poll, taken by Bir Zeit University, which shows that more than 80 percent of Palestinians want to see Hamas and Fatah reconcile and move on together. Taking this as its mandate, the forum will do what is "difficult, but doable," Masri says. Relations between Fatah and Hamas, hostile for a few years, were severed when Hamas overran the Gaza Strip last June in a violent coup. Militants connected to Hamas, which swept to power in a landslide election just over two years ago, attacked all security forces and posts in Gaza connected to Fatah.
Of course, many Palestinians say they've heard it all before. At an event to launch the initiative, members of the press wanted to know why this would be any different from the Mecca Accord, in which Saudi Arabia brought Fatah and Hamas to an agree in February 2007, only to fall apart soon afterwards.