Israeli Spy's Release Rumored to Extend Peace Talks
JERUSALEM, Israel -- The United States may give up an Israeli spy to extend the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Israeli media reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State John Kerry have worked out a deal that would extend peace talks with the Palestinians through the end of the year.
Kerry went directly to Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence upon landing early Monday evening and flew back to Europe Tuesday morning following a long breakfast meeting with the prime minister.
Kerry cancelled his meeting with the Palestinian leadership but is supposed to return soon.
Kerry's shuttle diplomacy has produced a package deal that includes the release of Jonathan Pollard, now in year 29 of incarceration for spying, in exchange for hundreds of Arab prisoners, a "partial" construction freeze, and extending talks until the first of the year.
Pollard reportedly would be released before Passover begins on the evening of April 14. Pollard is by far the longest serving spy for a friendly nation.
Israel was supposed to release 26 Palestinian terrorists over the weekend to keep the talks going but refused to do so unless the Palestinians agreed they would indeed talk to Israel.
Stage four of the prisoner release, which includes 26 convicts, among them Israeli Arabs, will take place slightly later than originally scheduled.
In addition, Israel will release an estimated 400 prisoners, including some minors and women without "blood on their hands," i.e., not convicted of murder.
The construction freeze does not include projects already underway or public buildings in Jerusalem, but it does include government buildings in Judea and Samaria.
Netanyahu is reportedly presenting the plan, which will have to be approved by the cabinet, to certain senior officials.
Meanwhile, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home Party said Pollard would not want to be exchanged for hundreds of convicted terrorists. Ariel said Pollard deserves unconditional release and would be against such an arrangement.