US Secretary of State John Kerry will reportedly consider Israeli calls to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard as a condition to the release of the remaining 52 Palestinian terrorists, Channel 10 reported on Friday, quoting Israeli officials.
Israel has agreed to release 104 Palestinian security prisoners with blood on their hands in four phases as a part of a deal to restart peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Half of these prisoners have already been released in two groups of 26 in August and October.
A third group of prisoners is scheduled to be released on Monday, the US State Department confirmed on Friday.
“Although we had expected the release to occur on December 29, we have been informed that technical issues made it necessary to do the release a day later,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
A special ministerial committee is scheduled to meet on Saturday night to decide on the list of those to be freed late Monday night.
A week ago, documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the US in 2008-2009 tracked e-mail accounts belonging to the offices of then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and then-defense minister Ehud Barak.
More and more MKs, including MKs from Arab factions, joined the calls for Pollard’s release following these revelations, saying the US had lost the legitimacy to keep Pollard imprisoned for spying on an ally country when it was doing the same.
Two Knesset resolution are expected to be sent to US President Barack Obama via President Shimon Peres and to the Senate by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
The MKs will also deliver a petition for Pollard’s freedom.
Among MKs from Jewish factions, the only ones who have not signed it are three ministers who deal regularly with the US: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Netanyahu welcomed the effort by the MKs, but cautioned that the need to bring about Pollard’s release was unconnected to the reports of American spying. He vowed to intensify his efforts to bring Pollard home.
The Israeli officials were not optimistic about the proposal, however, saying they don’t think President Obama has approved it.
The White House told Channel 10 there is no plan to free Pollard in the foreseeable future, adding that “President Obama stands firm behind comments he made before arriving in Israel for a visit [in March 2013]. Pollard committed a grave crime, and he has no intention of releasing him.”
Gil Hoffman and Reuters contributed to this report.
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Report-Kerry-to-mull-freeing-Pollard-as-condition-for-Palestinian-prisoners-release-336375