U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has named former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk as his main envoy in Israeli-Palestinian talks starting in Washington tonight.
Mr Indyk, 62, has served two terms as US ambassador to Israel from 1995 and 2000, and worked with Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak on the Oslo peace process.
The announcement follows Israel's approval of the release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are to resume peace talks in Washington today after a divided Israeli Cabinet agreed to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners convicted of deadly attacks.
A statement from the US State Department has confirmed Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been invited to resume peace talks in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.
– State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki
Today (US Secretary of State John) Kerry spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu and personally extended an invitation to send senior negotiating teams to Washington to formally resume direct final status negotiations.
Initial meetings are planned for the evening of Monday July 29 and Tuesday July 30.
Israeli and Palestinian officials are expected to meet to resume peace talks in Washington, DC tomorrow.
The US State Department announced that it hoped talks will begin on Monday, while a senior Palestinian official told the Reuters news agency that negotiations are set for Monday and Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the release of long-held Palestinian prisoners was "not easy" for Israelis but "must be made for the good of the nation".
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded the release of prisoners held since before a 1993 interim peace accord took effect.
Israel has jailed thousands more Palestinians since then, many for carrying out deadly attacks.
Speaking before his cabinet voted in favour of the releases, Mr Netanyahu said: "This moment is not easy for me, is not easy for the cabinet ministers, and is not easy especially for the bereaved families, whose feelings I understand."
He went on: "But there are moments in which tough decisions must be made for the good of the nation and this is one of those moments."
Israel's cabinet has approved the release of dozens of long-held Palestinian prisoners in an attempt to help restart Middle East peace talks and end nearly three years of diplomatic standstill.
Thirteen ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet authorised the release, seven voted against and two abstained, a government official said. A total of 104 Arab prisoners were approved to be freed.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has said the release of long-held Palestinian prisoners will be carried out in phases but said Israel would not give way on demands for territory.
The prisoners have been held since before 1993, the year the two sides signed a temporary deal - the Oslo Accords - that was intended to lead to an independent Palestinian state.
But Mr Steinitz added: "There is no chance that we will agree to enter any negotiations that begins with defining territorial borders or concessions by Israel, nor a construction freeze."
Israel has agreed to a long-standing Palestinian demand to release Palestinian prisoners in order to resume peace talks.
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio: "I don't want to give numbers but there will be heavyweight prisoners who have been in jail for tens of years."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is "encouraged" that the basis to resume peace talks between Israel and Palestine has been established.
Ban also commended the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry and the decision by Israeli and Palestinian officials "to return to the negotiating table".
His office said in a statement, "He is encouraged by this positive development and calls on both sides to show leadership, courage, and responsibility to sustain this effort towards achieving the two-state vision".
The UN added that it will "support any endeavour towards meaningful negotiations and to the achievement of a comprehensive peace in the region".
Foreign Secretary William Hague has welcomed the announcement that Israel and the Palestinians will meet to finalise an agreement on relaunching peace talks for the first time in five years.
Mr Hague said Britain "stands ready to do all we can" to support the peace process.
He commended the leadership shown by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but stressed "this is of course a beginning, not an end".
Mr Hague said, "I warmly welcome Secretary Kerry's announcement this evening that Israel and the Palestinians have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations".