Preliminary peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian should begin next Tuesday, senior Israeli officials have said.
Silvan Shalom, the Israeli regional development minister, said the meeting between the sides’ chief negotiators was expected to take place in Washington on July 30.
"We hope talks will begin next week, possibly on Tuesday, but this hasn't been decided 100 per cent," Mr Shalom, a former foreign minister and member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party told journalists in the West Bank city of Jericho, where he was opening an industrial park.
"If there's no change at the last minute... I think there's a good chance talks can resume next week in Washington.”
There was no official Palestinian agreement, although the Associated Press reported an unnamed Palestinian diplomat as confirming the date. Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, said his side was awaiting a formal invitation from the US.
A Palestinian official told The Telegraph that the July 30 date was "half true" but said confirmation depended on Mr Netanyahu's cabinet deciding in favour of releasing 103 long-term prisoners described by Israel as "having blood on their hands" when it meets next Sunday.
Israel has said it will release 80 prisoners but the Palestinian have insisted that 103 inmates should go free - including some who hold Israeli citizenship. They would be released in four phases, starting in the first month of a formal
six-month negotiating period. The last batch would be released in the final months of negotiations.
Haaretz newspaper said an unnamed high-level Israeli official had also confirmed the July 30 date. It reported on its website that US officials had set the time following a series of phone conversations with senior Israeli and Palestinian figures.
It is the first time a specific timing has been given for what will be the first direct peace discussions between Israeli and Palestinian discussions in nearly three years since John Kerry, the US secretary of state, last week announced a breakthrough in getting the two sides back to the negotiating table.
After four days of meetings with Palestinian officials, including Mr Abbas, Mr Kerry said last Friday that he had “the basis for an agreement” to resume talks. He said representatives of the two sides would travel to Washington “over the next week or so” if everything went well.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has said repeatedly that Israel is prepared to enter talks “immediately” – a point intended to convey the message that the Palestinians are dragging their feet. Israel is expected to be represented by Tzipi Livni, the country’s chief negotiator and justice minister, and Isaac Molho, Mr Netanyahu’s personal envoy.
The Palestinians, who will be represented by Saeb Erekat, have described the planned Washington meeting as “talks about talks” limited to setting the terms, venue and time-line of more formal future negotiations.
Officials from the Palestinian negotiating team have also said they want an Israeli commitment to negotiate on the basis of 1967 borders.