Israeli Minister: Pollard Would Object to Trade for Palestinian Prisoners

Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 10:04 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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A powerful member of the Israeli Knesset is opposed to freeing jailed spy Jonathan Pollard as part of a deal to prolong floundering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel said Tuesday that Pollard himself would not want to be released by U.S. authorities in exchange for dozens of Palestinian prisoners to keep the negotiations alive, according to The Jerusalem Post.

"I was personally told he is against being released in such a disgraceful manner," Ariel, a member of the Bayit Yehudi party, told Israel's Army Radio, adding that Pollard deserved to be freed unconditionally — not to be traded for Palestinian "murderers."

Pollard, a former civilian analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, was arrested in 1985 and later found guilty of passing thousands of sensitive documents to Israeli operatives.

Born a U.S. citizen, Pollard became a citizen of Israel while behind bars. After spending more than 25 years in jail, Pollard is up for parole next year.

But in a three-way swap, Pollard's early release could result in Israel freeing more than two dozen Palestinian prisoners, which in turn would bring the Palestinians back to the bargaining table.

Israel, however, has been wary of fulfilling the promised release of the prisoners, many of them convicted terrorists, only to have the Palestinians pull the plug on the peace talks, which are aimed at ending the decades-old Middle East conflict, according to the Post.

Although the talks were due to end on April 29, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping to prolong the negotiations in an attempt to reach an accord between the two sides. And according to several reports, Pollard's release could help pave the way to an extension of the initial deadline.

The reports of Pollard playing a key role in a prisoner exchange surfaced just one week after the U.S. State Department claimed that "there are currently no plans" to release Pollard as part of the Israel-Palestinian negotiations.

The department spokesman added that Pollard was convicted "of a very serious crime, was sentenced to life in prison, and is serving his sentence."

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