The White House has denied an Israeli radio report broadcast Wednesday saying the U.S. proposed swapping convicted Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard for 26 Palestinian Authority terrorist prisoners to keep the Israel-PA talks alive.
Pollard is entering his 29th year in a U.S. prison, held on a single charge of passing classified information to a friendly ally (Israel) after his arrest in 1985. The crime normally carries a maximum jail term of two to four years.
Israel was set to release the 26 PA terrorists this week in a final tranche of four groups to complete an agreement made as a “good will gesture” on condition the PA would participate in “serious” talks. Since July 2013, 78 PA terrorists have been freed. A number of roadblocks at entrances to Arab cities and towns along major arteries in Judea and Samaria, where terrorists are known to take refuge, have also been opened and new roads paved with funding and assistance from the U.S. government.
But there has no been significant participation in negotiations by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas since November 2013, according to Jerusalem officials. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has notified the U.S. that many senior ministers in his coalition government are opposed to releasing the final group of terrorists, not having seen any real progress in the talks and no movement in any of the PA’s positions.
“There are no plans to release Jonathan Pollard at the moment,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki announced at a briefing. “Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage against the United States – a very serious crime. He was sentenced to life and is currently serving his sentence,” she said. The spokesperson sidestepped the issue of whether or not a deal offering a prisoner swap had been offered.
The PA leader announced at an Arab League summit yesterday that he intends to move ahead with unilateral attempts to gain membership for the PA as an independent sovereign nation in international organizations, ignoring his own commitment. Both Abbas and the Arab League are insisting on preconditions by Israel to continue “negotiations” that require the Jewish State to pull back to the 1949 Armistice Line, withdrawing from all “occupied territories” won in 1967. They also demand Israel accept the “right of return” by Arab refugees who fled Israel in 1948 and 1967 and their millions of descendants, and refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.