Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are set to meet Monday in Washington for preliminary talks on resuming peace negotiations that have remained stalled for nearly three years.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will host chief negotiators Tzipi Livni for Israel and Saeb Erekat for the Palestinians at an iftar meal Monday night to begin the discussions. The two sides will come together for more talks on Tuesday.
Kerry says he is grateful that Palestinian and Israeli leaders have shown they are willing to make the "difficult decisions" needed to get to this point.
Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overcame strong opposition in his Cabinet to approve a Palestinian prisoner release.
One-hundred four Palestinian prisoners will be freed in four stages. But Livni said it will be carried out only if the Palestinians prove to be a serious partner in the negotiations.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Israel must free long-held prisoners in order for negotiations to proceed. Israeli media have said the prisoners include Palestinians convicted of decades-old deadly attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces.
The prisoner release drew opposition from ultranationalist ministers who said it would be a reward for "terrorism." Israeli media said Mr. Netanyahu told his ministers the prisoner decision was "difficult" for him and the families of those killed, but also necessary to renew the peace process.