Israelis and Palestinians have clashed violently for decades over claims to the same land. Now, for the first time in years, the two groups are planning to resume peace talks on Monday evening in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working for months to make it possible for the groups to come together to discuss a path to peace. On Sunday, he invited Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, to send negotiating teams to the U.S. capital.
“Both leaders have demonstrated a willingness to make difficult decisions that have been instrumental in getting to this point,” Mr. Kerry said in a statement. “We are grateful for their leadership.”
A Tough Choice
On Sunday, Israeli leaders agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners. The release is a key part of the deal to restart the peace process. The plan is for the prisoners to be released in stages, depending on the progress of the talks.
In Israel, the decision to release these prisoners, most of whom have been convicted of killing Israelis, is a controversial one. As Netanyahu discussed the plan with the member of his Cabinet on Sunday, hundreds of Israelis protested outside.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the decision to release the prisoners “a step toward peace,” and said, “I hope that we can use this opportunity that the U.S. has provided for us to resume negotiations.”
Laying the Foundation
Erekat and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni will lead the early talks, in which the groups will discuss a framework for moving forward with negotiations. Once the structure for the talks has been determined, the main goal will be to move on to peace talks that will establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Many worry that the talks will fall apart early on—as they have in the past—even before the groups have a chance to discuss core issues. Some experts say that President Barack Obama’s involvement could help a great deal.
How much of a role President Obama will play remains to be seen. But he has made clear that he believes it is possible for Israelis and Palestinians to find a path to peace. On a visit to Israel in March, Obama delivered a speech to an audience of young Israelis. “Peace is necessary . . . peace is also just,” he said, adding that a deal remains possible.