The United States announced the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks Sunday after years of stalemate.
But the new step has already come with a high price for Israel, with the Jewish state giving in to American pressure to release 104 Palestinian prisoners convicted of killing Israelis.
"This is not an easy moment for me, but there are moments when I need to make tough decisions for the good of the country, and this is one of those moments," Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu said.
What are the biblical implications of these talks? CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell talks about this and more on CBN Newswatch, July 29.
Other Israeli cabinet members agreed.
"Everybody feels bad about the idea of releasing the prisoners because this is a bunch of really hideous people with a terrible history. But we have to do what we have to do in order to make the peace process progress," Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said.
On the Palestinian side, the move was met with immediate distrust -- even setting off battles between Palestinian demonstrators and police.
"We think this is an act of blackmail, that their release will be used as an instrument of blackmailing the Palestinian negotiating team," Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti said.
The return to direct contacts between the two sides gave U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry his first concrete achievement after months of shuttle diplomacy. But hundreds of Israelis who lost loved ones in Palestinian attacks protested the move.
"It's a shame to the American nation that Kerry is making his career on the back of the families who lost their loved ones," Meir Indor, CEO of Almagor Terror Victims Association, said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. said preliminary talks would begin Monday, but it remains unclear whether they will lead to a formal resumption of peace talks that broke down in 2008.
At the heart of the stalemate: Jerusalem.
Netanyahu has said Jerusalem will never be divided, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says there can be no agreement without a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem, home to the Temple Mount.
Analysts warn the talks will fail if the Jerusalem issue is not resolved.