Hamas, officially dedicated to Israel's destruction, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, which wants negotiations with Israel, have been locked in a power struggle over their competing ideologies. Some feared that the feud would start a civil war. But last week there appeared to be a breakthrough when the two factions signed an agreement based on a document drafted by Palestinian prisoners that calls for the creation of a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders.
If the document means that Hamas is prepared to recognize Israel, it may allow international aid to flow again to the Palestinians and set the stage for negotiations with Israel.
"When the prisoners' document was signed and sealed, the internal conflict was over," Sourani said. "The road was paved for the road map" - the stalled U.S.-backed peace plan - "but Israel overturned the table and confused everything."
Israeli officials, however, dismissed the agreement as nothing more than an attempt by the fractured Palestinian leadership to display unity during a week of crisis.
The agreement does not explicitly recognize Israel, nor does it renounce violence. It endorses the continuation of resistance in the Palestinian territories, and it leaves open the possibility of other resistance within Israel.
Still, some analysts defended the agreement as a significant step forward that should not be ignored. "In conflicts we've had in the last 50 years, if we've been able to get a movement that is going in the direction of violence and get them into politics, that in itself is a tremendous victory. It's very saddening and frustrating that this chance is not being taken," said Helga Baumgarten, professor of political science at Birzeit University in Ramallah.
"We very much hope in the interest of all concerned that Shalit is alive and that his release will be the stepping-stone to move ahead," she said.
Such an outcome is unlikely, says Sourani, who expects that Israel will continue its military operation in Gaza no matter what happens. "This summer is going to bleak, black and bloody," he said.