Just after the Israeli cabinet voted 13-7 with two abstentions to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners, the State Department announced that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would meet in Washington Monday evening and Tuesday to resume peace talks after a three-year hiatus.
Secretary of State John Kerry personally phoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday afternoon to formally invite them to send their representatives to Washington to begin what the State Department called "direct final status negotiations." Actually, at this point they'll only be talking about talking, not actually working on solutions to the core issues like borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security and water.
This week's meetings are to "serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months," said
State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki.
Kerry praised both leaders for their "willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point."
The Israelis will be represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho, and the Palestinians will be represented by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh.
The prisoners would be released in stages, giving Netanyahu some leverage to make sure the talks make progress.
Negotiations are expected to last six to nine months or until one side finds an excuse to walk out earlier and sanctimoniously blame the other for the failure to once again find peace.
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