The US State Department has announced that preliminary discussions about the format and issues to be discussed in upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will begin tomorrow. MK Tzipi Livni will act as lead negotiator for the Israelis, with Saeb Erekat representing the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet also approved the release of 100 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of good faith. The prisoners will be released in stages as talks between the two sides continue.
Tying continued peace talks to prisoner releases seems like a win for Netanyahu, who will be able to use the incremental nature of the releases to keep the Palestinians in talks. During the peace talks in 2009, the Palestinians insisted upon a settlement freeze to continue talks, but it's highly unlikely a settlement freeze would be tied to this round of talks.
While prisoner releases will gain Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas some popularity among Palestinians, a settlement freeze likely provides greater benefits to the Palestinians as a whole and keeps focus on continued Israeli settlement building and the consequences of that on a viable peace agreement.