Secretary of State John Kerry is being credited for brokering the deal for peace talks between Israel and Palestine to resume for the first time in five years.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders will meet in Washington, D.C. Monday evening and the talks are expected to continue into Tuesday.
“State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the preliminary talks will be led by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat,” the Washington Post reported Sunday evening.
In a controversial move Sunday, Israel agreed to released 104 Palestinian prisoners that had been “one of the major roadblocks to the peace talks,” the Post said.
According to the article,
The Israeli public views these prisoners as terrorists who have blood on their hands. Palestinians see them as freedom fighters struggling to reclaim their homeland and oust the occupiers. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his leadership refused to return to the negotiating table without their release.
“This is an incomparably difficult decision, it is painful for the bereaved families and it is painful for the entire nation and it is also very painful for me,”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in an “open letter to Israeli citizens” Saturday night.
“From time to time, prime ministers are called on to make decisions that go against public opinion — when the matter is important for the country,” Netanyahu said, adding, “It seems to me that it is very important for the State of Israel to enter into a diplomatic process.”
Protests over the release of the prisoners were staged in front of the prime minister’s office, and even members of Netanyahu’s own party expressed disapproval of the move.
“I’m disappointed by the stance of our American allies and the West who adopt this twisted idea and see releasing murderers as something that promotes peace, and building a kindergarten as destroying peace,” Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin said in a statement to the Post, referring to the U.S. opposition of Israeli construction in the West Bank.
“State Department officials who briefed reporters on his effort last week said the goal is intensive talks over about nine months,” the Post reported. “The agreement would set West Bank borders and include promises about Israel’s security once it no longer occupies the West Bank.”