Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard could go free as part of Mideast deal

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Jonathan Pollard (Credit: U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. intelligence agent who was convicted of spying for Israel, could be released before the Jewish holiday of Passover as part of efforts to save Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, an Israeli official involved said.

Passover starts April 14.Various suggestions for deals for Pollard’s release have been floated over the years but this has not materialized.

Talk of Pollard’s possible release came as Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Israel on Monday to try and mediate a dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Pollard’s possible release was being discussed as part of a broader agreement that has yet to be finalized.

In exchange for Pollard’s release, sources familiar with the talks have said that Israel would have to make significant concessions to the Palestinians, which could include a settlement freeze, the release of additional prisoners beyond the current group in dispute and an agreement to continue peace negotiations beyond the end of April deadline.

The Israeli official said the parameters of a deal emerging include negotiations with the Palestinians continuing into 2015, and in that time Palestinians would refrain from taking their case to international bodies.

A fourth Palestinian prisoner release would go ahead and will include Israeli Arabs, the official added. An additional 400 Palestinian prisoners would be released. Israel would determine those to be released and they would not have blood on their hands, the official added.

Regarding settlements, there will not be a total freeze, but “Israel will act with great restraint,” he said.

There would be no new tenders for new housing in the West Bank — Jerusalem is not included in this regard — although work will proceed on tenders already issued, the official said. The halt on new tenders refers to housing only. Construction of other infrastructure, such as roads and hospitals, he said, will continue.

Pollard, a former U.S. intelligence analyst arrested and charged with spying for Israel, was convicted in 1987 and is currently serving out a life sentence in the United States. His imprisonment has been a source of tension between the U.S. and Israel.

But with peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians faltering, his release is being considered as a possible incentive for Israeli concessions.

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