Talks between the Palestinians and Israelis will resume on Monday evening, the first such formal deliberations in nearly 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.
Secretary of State John Kerry named Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, as his special envoy on Middle East peace.
Kerry appointed Indyk on Monday, hours before talks were to resume for the first time since 2010.
“Ambassador Indyk brings to this challenge his deep appreciation for the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Kerry said, “and a deep appreciation for the art of diplomacy in the Middle East.”
During the Oslo peace talks in the 1990s, Indyk served twice as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel and once as top Middle East peace envoy — the post he is assuming anew.
The choice of Indyk, mooted in recent days, already has come under fire by critics of the peace process, on the left and the right, because of his association with the failures of the Oslo process.
Alluding to the Oslo shortcomings, Kerry said, “He knows what has worked and he knows what hasn’t worked,” he said, as Indyk laughed and winced.
Indyk said his passion for Middle East peace had its roots in the time he spent in Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the shuttle diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, then the U.S. secretary of state, to bring an end to the war.
Like Kissinger, Indyk told Kerry, “You took up the challenge when most people thought you were on a mission impossible.”
The Israeli side will be represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni 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 has ministerial status, will represent the Palestinian Authority.
The State Department release said the talks would focus at first on the procedure for the negotiations, but added that the basis for talks 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,” the release said, without elaborating on what the basis is.
“The meetings in Washington will mark the beginning of these talks. They will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.”
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 partial settlement freeze.
A number of reports have said the talks will be on the basis of the 1967 lines. Such a basis could shake up Netanyahu’s government and lead to the departure of the Jewish Home party.
A number of Jewish Home leaders and in Netanyahu’s own Likud party have suggested in recent weeks that a two-state solution, particularly one based on the 1967 lines, is not viable.