US ‘may free Is­rael spy Pol­lard’

Daily Trust - - INTERNATIONAL -

The US may con­sider re­leas­ing Jonathan Pol­lard, an Amer­i­can jailed for spy­ing for Is­rael, in a bid to save the Mid­dle East peace process, re­ports say.

A US of­fi­cial told the New York Times that no de­ci­sions had been made, but con­firmed there had been dis­cus­sions.

Is­rael would have to make sig­nif­i­cant con­ces­sions to the Pales­tini­ans in re­turn, re­ports said.

Pol­lard, a for­mer US Navy in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst, was jailed for life in 1987 for pass­ing documents to Is­rael.

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry flew to the re­gion on Mon­day for ur­gent talks.

He held two meet­ings with Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, and had dis­cus­sions with chief Pales­tinian ne­go­tia­tor Saeb Erekat, be­fore fly­ing out af­ter only sev­eral hours. None of the sides have com­mented on the talks.

It is the sec­ond time that Mr Kerry has in­ter­rupted his sched­ule to press Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans to ex­tend the di­rect peace talks be­yond 29 April - the dead­line set last sum­mer when they re­sumed af­ter a three-year hia­tus. His plan has been de­railed by a dis­pute over the re­lease of a fourth batch of 26 long-term Pales­tinian pris­on­ers from Is­raeli jails.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials have said they are re­luc­tant to pro­ceed un­less the Pales­tini­ans com­mit to ex­tend­ing the talks, and stressed that the re­leases have al­ways been tied to their progress.

The pre­vi­ous three re­leases were deeply un­pop­u­lar with the Is­raeli pub­lic be­cause many of the pris­on­ers were con­victed of mur­der­ing Is­raelis.

The pos­si­ble re­lease of Pol­lard has re­port­edly emerged as an in­cen­tive for Is­raeli co-oper­a­tion.

Like his pre­de­ces­sors, Mr Obama has re­fused to re­lease the 59-year-old de­spite re­peated pleas from Is­raeli lead­ers.

Pol­lard was jailed for life in 1987 for pass­ing thou­sands of clas­si­fied documents to Is­rael.

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