Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is thinking of asking the US to release Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied for Israel, from prison as a condition for signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.
Pollard is an American citizen who was arrested in 1985 on charges of espionage for Israel. After pleading guilty to the charges, he was sentenced to life in prison in 1987. Although Pollard is also alleged to have passed classified information to other countries as well, including China, South Africa and Pakistan, Israel granted him citizenship in 1995 and Netanyahu has voiced particularly strong support for him, even paying him a prison visit in 2002.
According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli official said that after the US surveillance of Israeli leaders was revealed, Netanyahu raised the possibility of asking the US to release Pollard "as part of the negotiation efforts with the Palestinians".
The official, who said he has researched the issue, explained that this could be executed in one of two ways: a release of the Israeli spy as part of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement pushed by the Americans next month, or through a deal aimed at releasing Palestinian prisoners.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli politician has reiterated that Israel is committed to all previous agreements reached for the resumption of peace talks, including the release of the third batch of Palestinian prisoners arrested before the Oslo Agreement.
The official also affirmed that while the talks are ongoing, Israel would not restrict its construction of the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In related news, Israeli media reported that Netanyahu has asked the US to extend the deadline for peace talks by one year, fearing the emergence of differences over vital outstanding issues.