Tags: Israel | Middle East | Jonathan Pollard | Israel | Palestinian | talks | US

US Won't Release Pollard to Aid Israel-Palestinian Talks

By Drew MacKenzie   |   Wednesday, 26 Mar 2014 12:52 PM

Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard will not be released by the U.S. government in a move to extend the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, The Jerusalem Post reported.

"There are currently no plans to release Jonathan Pollard," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told the Post, adding that Pollard was convicted "of a very serious crime, was sentenced to life in prison, and is serving his sentence."

The statement came after Israel's Army Radio, citing diplomatic sources, reported  Wednesday that the United States had agreed to free Pollard in a deal to extend the April 30 deadline on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

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The report said that as part of the deal, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would prolong the current round of talks and also extend them through the end of 2014. According to the Army Radio report, Israel would release another 26 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the United States releasing Pollard.

Pollard pleaded guilty in 1986 to passing U.S. national defense information to the Israeli government, and is serving a life sentence.

In December, the Israeli media claimed that Secretary of State John Kerry may be willing to release Pollard in exchange for releasing Palestinian prisoners.

It was also reported three months ago by The Washington Post that the Israeli government would use revelations that the National Security Agency had spied against its top officials to press for an end to Pollard's long incarceration.

The talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians are in danger of collapsing, and senior Israeli officials have warned that if there is no progress over a fourth installment of exchange of prisoners, the negotiations could end prematurely, says the Post.

Earlier this month, Kerry criticized Israel's insistence that the Palestinians publicly declare Israel to be a Jewish state, as part of the two-state peace agreement.

On Wednesday, the Arab League announced its full support of the Palestinian refusal to meet Israel's demand to be recognized as a Jewish state. "We express our total rejection of the call to consider Israel as a Jewish state," read a statement from the Arab summit in Kuwait.

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