Talks between Palestinians and Israelis will resume on Monday evening, the first such formal deliberations in almost three years.
Meetings between top negotiators will take place Monday night and Tuesday in Washington, the U.S. State Department said in a statement. Secretary of State John Kerry has been pressing the sides for a resumption and has visited the region six times since assuming his post in February.
The Israeli side will be represented by Tsipi Livni, the justice minister, and Yitzhak Molcho, the national security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator, and Mohammed Shtayyeh, who directs the Palestinian Economic Council and who has ministerial status, will represent the Palestinian Authority.
The State Department release said that the talks would at first focus on the procedure for the talks, but added that the basis for negotiations is in place.
“As Secretary Kerry announced on July 19 in Amman, Jordan, the Israelis and Palestinians had reached agreement on the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations,” it said. It did not elaborate what the basis is.
“The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks,” it said. “They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural workplan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.”
“Both leaders have demonstrated a willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point. We are grateful for their leadership,” Kerry added in the statement.
The announcement came after Israel promised to release 104 Palestinian prisoners with Jewish blood on their hands.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet met Sunday to debate the prisoner release and to approve the resumption of talks. The 22-member cabinet approved the release by a vote of 13 in favor, seven against and two abstentions.
Likud MK and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon urged ministers to vote against the release, branding it “a diplomatic mistake, a moral mistake.”
It is still not clear whether the released prisoners will include 14 Israeli Arabs—which the PA made clear would be a deal breaker. Sources in Jerusalem told Kol Israel there has been no Israeli commitment on that issue.
Among the Israeli Arab prisoners whose release the PA is demanding are the four Arabs who killed three Israeli soldiers with pitchforks on the infamous “Pitchforks Night” in the early ’90s, the terrorist who threw a firebomb into the car belonging to the Moses family, murdering the mother Ofra and her son Tal, and the terrorist who threw a firebomb at a bus, murdering Rachel Weiss, mother of three children, and soldier David Delaroza, in the 1980s.
There were conflicting reports in recent days over whether the sides had achieved a basis for the talks, or whether negotiators would convene only to prepare the basis for talks.
Israeli and Palestinian talks have been suspended since October 2010, when the Palestinians walked out over Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month settlement construction freeze.
JTA content was used in this report.