US 'could free Jonathan Pollard' to rescue peace talks

Israel Radio says releasing the convicted Israeli spy is one option being examined by US officials to save negotiations from collapse

Robert Tait - The Telegraph [UK] - March 23, 2014

Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli citizen serving a life sentence for spying on the US, could be freed by the Obama administration in a dramatic effort to save ailing Middle East peace talks, local media reported on Sunday.

With negotiations on the brink of collapse, officials in Washington were said to have "not ruled out" liberating Mr Pollard as an inducement to Israel to break the impasse over a bitterly contentious scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners.

Israel Radio, which broke the story, cited US officials as cautioning that President Barack Obama was not guaranteed to agree to the move. Mr Obama has previously rebuffed pleas from Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, to release Mr Pollard, 59, a former US navy analyst who took Israeli citizenship after being convicted by a American court in 1987.

The possibility of a change of heart has been prompted by the parlous state of the peace talks, now deadlocked as a late April deadline approaches without any discernible progress since their resumption last summer. US officials are said to have gone from optimism to deep despair about the future of the talks after a "difficult and complex" meeting between Mr Obama and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, at the White House last Monday.

Israel has said it will not release a final batch of 26 long term Palestinian prisoners - due to be freed by the end of this month - unless Mr Abbas agrees to extend the negotiations at least until the end of this year and desists from taking his case to the UN.

View original article.