Updated 11:55 a.m.
Secretary of State John Kerry named former Ambassador Martin Indyk as the new U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Monday as long-stalled direct talks were set to resume that evening.
“Going forward, it’s no secret that this is a difficult process,” Kerry said from the State Department. “If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago.”
A two-time ambassador to Israel, having served from 1995 to 1997, and again from 2000-2001, Indyk will take leave from his post as head of the foreign policy program at The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank. He is also the founding director of the institute's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
Direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians are set to resume at a dinner attended by senior aides from both sides Monday evening in Washington. The talks, which are set to continue through Tuesday, will break a three-year-long stalemate.
Kerry has made six visits to the region since assuming his role as head of the State Department in February.
“I know the negotiations are going to be tough. I also know the consequences of not trying would be worse,” Kerry said.
The agreement was finalized Sunday when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners, granting Palestinians the show of “good faith” they had demanded in order to come to the negotiating table. Previously, Palestinians said the resumption of peace talks hinged on the cessation of new or expanded Israeli settlements being built on Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
Obama called this week's negotiations "a promising step forward, though hard work and hard choices remain ahead" in a statement Monday.
Administration officials told NBC News that Obama has been very involved in the negotiations behind the scenes.
Indyk also served as the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs and senior director for Near East and South Asia in the U.S. National Security Council, as well as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton.
Indyk called his new appointment a “daunting and humbling challenge, but one that I cannot desist from.” He recalled the “agony” of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, which he experienced as a student in Jerusalem
“It’s been my conviction for 40 years that peace is possible,” Indyk said
NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Catherine Chomiak contributed reporting.