Israel’s army radio reported on Wednesday that the US administration has offered to release the American who spied for Israel, Jonathan Pollard, in exchange for the 26 Palestinian prisoners initially scheduled for release in March, but only if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agrees to extend the negotiations with Israel.
The offer was proposed during Abbas’s recent visit to Washington. Western sources had earlier reported that officials in the US administration did not rule out releasing Pollard to encourage Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners and to push the stalled peace talks forward.
The Palestinian and Israeli sides have not yet reacted to the news.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in the Jordanian capital Amman on Wednesday to meet with Abbas.
The US arrested Pollard, a former analyst in the CIA and US Navy, for supplying Israel with thousands of secret documents revealing US involvement in spying on the Arab world, and sentenced him to life in prison in 1987.
Israel was scheduled to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners consisting of 26 Israeli Arab prisoners at the end of March as part of last summer’s deal to re-launch peace talks with the Palestinians under US auspices.
According to the deal, Israel had agreed to release a total of 104 prisoners in four groups. Three groups were released last year; however, Israel now refuses to release the last group, claiming that, “the Palestinian Authority has nothing to do with them because they are Israeli citizens.”