President Obama says Israeli and Palestinian negotiators face "hard work and hard choices" in direct peace talks set to open in Washington tonight.
The meeting comes after a divided Israeli Cabinet agreed to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners convicted of deadly attacks.
"The most difficult work of these negotiations is ahead, and I am hopeful that both the Israelis and Palestinians will approach these talks in good faith and with sustained focus and determination," Mr Obama said in a statement.
The US president said he believed peace between the two parties was both "possible and necessary."
So far President Obama has watched from the sidelines. Is he ready to engage; to use his own authority, even if that risks failure?
For the first time in three years, both sides have agreed to sit down to discuss resuming peace negotiations, John Kerry said.