Sources close to the White House told Reuters Monday that the US is offering the release of Jonathan Pollard in exchange for the fourth batch of terrorists that were set to be released Saturday night - and a possible release date has been set for mid-April.
If true, the long-hoped-for freedom of Pollard - who has been held captive in the US on spying charges since 1987 - will fall out around the Jewish holiday of Passover (Pesach), which falls on April 15 this year. Passover is the traditional holiday marking Israel's redemption from 210 years of slavery in ancient Egypt, - a fitting date for Pollard's release.
The news contradicts reports earlier this week, when the White House restated Wednesday that it has no intentions to free Pollard, after reports suggested the US was offering to release him in order to pressure Israel into going through with the last terrorist release and continuing peace talks. The report Monday night by the Reuters news agency was denied by the White House, which said that "nothing had changed" in its refusal to pardon Pollard.
Jonathan Pollard has recently been subject of a high-profile campaign for his release. He is now in his 29th year of incarceration in a US jail for passing classified security-related information from America to Israel. He was arrested by FBI agents in 1985 and has been held ever since, in harsh and sometimes inhuman conditions.
Pollard was arrested on charges far less serious than those that landed other spies in jail, yet those spies served a few years's jail time at most, critics noted, and slammed the US for "hypocrisy."
Several top US officials, including Former Deputy National Security advisor Elliott Abrams, United States Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Jonathan Pollard affair Lawrence Korb, and former CIA chief James Woolsey have also called for Pollard to be released.
Former captive Gilad Shalit reiterated those calls in an emotional plea Monday morning.
"These days I can't help but feel the great pain of Jonathan Pollard, sitting in jail for 29 years - more than five times the amount I was in captivity, and all the while in America, our great friend," noted Shalit, in a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. "I turn to you in this my third Holiday of Freedom (another name for Passover) as a free man, since you brought my release."