During talks in Cairo, the two main Palestinian movements agreed to allow a Hamas representative to serve on a committee that will study the restructuring of the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization, including perhaps holding PLO elections.
The PLO -- which is viewed by the international community as the sole representative of the Palestinian people -- has been promising for years to open itself up to greater participation from rival factions. Yet PLO elections have not taken place, and even optimists say such a poll is still years away.
Meanwhile, the secular Fatah and the militant Islamist Hamas have failed to agree on the details of a proposed unity government and have yet to release each other's political prisoners.
Those were two key provisions of a landmark reconciliation deal reached in May. The May agreement also called for the restructuring of the PLO.
Allowing Hamas into the PLO poses an even greater challenge than forming a unity government because of the groups' differing views.
Fatah has recognized the state of Israel and seeks Palestinian statehood through peace talks rather than armed resistance. Hamas has refused to recognize Israel or to renounce the use of violence as a way to end Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.
-- Edmund Sanders
Photo: Khaled Mashaal, left, the political leader of Hamas, meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo on Wednesday. Credit: Office of Khaled Mashaal / Associated Press