Kerry Reportedly Willing to Free Pollard in Palestinian Prisoner Swap

Sunday, 29 Dec 2013 06:37 PM

By Greg Richter

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Secretary of State John Kerry may be willing to free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard as part of a deal to free Palestinian prisoners, according to multiple Israeli press reports.

Kerry arrives in Israel during the first week of 2014, his 10th visit to the Middle East in less than a year on the job.

Israel's Channel 10 was the first to report the possible deal that would free Pollard, who pleaded guilty in 1986 to passing U.S. national defense information to the Israeli government. He is serving a life sentence.

But the report also noted that Pollard's release isn't likely since the deal has not been approved by President Barack Obama. Fox News reports, however, that a source says Pollard is, indeed, part of a possible deal.

Fox noted, though, that it is unclear what price Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu might be asked to pay for Pollard's release and whether he would even be willing to do so.

Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have in the past called for Pollard's release.

Kerry's arrival will come amid stepped up attacks by Palestinian groups amid peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders that began in July. He plans to meet with both Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

One symbolic sign of movement would be a face-to-face meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders as Kerry seeks to narrow differences – over borders, security, the rights of refugees and the status of Jerusalem – that have confounded U.S.-led efforts at mediation for years.

While Israel is in negotiations with leaders in the West Bank, the picture is different in Palestinian-occupied Gaza. There, Islamic Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and calls for its destruction.

A poll released this month by the West Bank-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip expect the Kerry-led talks to fail.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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