The calls for the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to be included in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are growing in number.
In a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit urged him to demand the release of Pollard as part of the current negotiations with the Palestinians, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.
“These days I can not help but feel the great pain of Jonathan Pollard, jailed some 29 years — five times longer than my period of captivity, and this is the United States, our great friend. The last time the State of Israel released 80 prisoners with blood on their hands as a gesture to [Abbas] it was at the request of the United States. Today, according to media reports, the US once again calls for Israel to continue releasing more terrorists within the framework of the fourth round of prisoner releases,” wrote Shalit.
Shalit was freed from Hamas captivity in October 2011, in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian inmates being held in Israeli prisons, many of them convicted of violent crimes.
On March 26 Israel’s Army Radio revealed that the United States had proposed freeing Pollard in a trade-off deal in which Israel would agree to proceed with the next round of prisoner releases, including Israeli Arab prisoners, and the Palestinian Authority would agreed to extend the current peace talks.
It said the offer had been conveyed to Israel and the PA, but there was no official confirmation. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was quoted telling journalists accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry to a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday morning that there were currently no plans to release Pollard, who is serving a life sentence.
Pollard, a US naval analyst, was jailed by the US in 1987 after being caught spying for Israel. Successive Israeli governments have lobbied Washington for his release, with no success. He is due to be paroled late next year.
In exchange for Pollard, Israel would agree to release 26 prisoners, among them around 20 Arab Israelis, and the Palestinians would agree to continue talks until the end of 2014, according to the report.
Kerry reportedly made the offer after Netanyahu made clear his intentions to forgo the final stage of a prisoner release, previously agreed to as a bargaining chip for starting peace talks this past July, unless Abbas agreed to extend the talks past the upcoming April deadline.
Right-wing Israeli politicians have objected to the prisoner release, particularly letting inmates who are Israeli citizens go, but the inclusion of Pollard in the deal would likely help bring them aboard.