WASHINGTON — Israel is telling the United States that it will release a third group of Palestinian prisoners shortly later than expected.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday that Israel told the US technical issues made it necessary to wait to do the release, which Israel pledged to carry out when peace talks started last summer.
The third phase of releases was originally set for Sunday, but the necessary ministerial panel did not convene before the weekend. Instead, the candidates for release are to be reviewed early this coming week, and there must then be a 48-hour period in which opponents can file appeals against the specific releases.
Israeli officials also plan to announce next week the construction of new Jewish settlement homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — a move that is expected to anger the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appealed to the US to block the new settlements, warning the move could jeopardize the peace effort.
Psaki says the US expects both parties to avoid provocative acts that could undermine the talks.
Also on Friday, Israeli media reports emerged indicating that US Secretary of State John Kerry offered to arrange the release of jailed spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard if Israel frees Israeli Arab prisoners in the fourth and final phase of prisoner releases.
According to Channel 10, Kerry clarified in his contacts with Israel’s leaders on the issue that Pollard’s release had not been approved by President Barack Obama, and the report further said Israel doubted that Kerry could actually secure Obama’s approval.