US Denies Deal Finalized For Pollard's Release
A US official denied on Thursday a report citing another senior American official, who said that a deal freeing Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israeli-held Arab terrorist convicts and an extension of peace talks will be carried out in the coming days.
The deal was reported on Channel 2 and Channel 10. Al Arabiya also reported that the deal was about to be finalized; the reports remain to be confirmed.
One US official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity stated Thursday that the "reports are incorrect." After initially reporting that a deal could be near, Channel 2 quoted Israeli sources close to the talks as saying "the reports on the deal are premature," adding that the US State Department said "gaps between Israel and the Palestinians have narrowed, but there is still no deal."
According to the unconfirmed reports, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will suspend some of his requests to join international conventions, Israel will free terrorists and freeze construction in Judea and Samaria, and the US will free Pollard.
PA sources have clarified they don't intend to back down on their demand for the release of Israeli-Arab terrorists promised as part of "gestures" for the peace talk. While the last batch, including the Israeli-Arab terrorists, was cancelled last Thursday, Israel has not ruled out their future release, saying a discussion on the issue will be held.
Such a deal would require the approval of the Israeli government in the coming days. However, it is not clear if such a deal would pass, given that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman stated earlier in the week that he would support continued peace talks but not continued terrorist releases. It remains unclear if he has backed down on that statement.
Pollard has protested such a deal
Also putting the deal in danger is Pollard's own opposition to the release of terrorists. Pollard, now in his 29th year in an American jail on charges of spying for Israel, waived a parole hearing last Tuesday to protest the proposal of the deal earlier that day.
At the time, the US had reportedly proposed freeing Pollard in exchange for 400 Arab terrorists held by Israel, including arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti, as well as an Israeli construction freeze in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
Abbas said Thursday morning that he would be open to the idea of extending the peace talks beyond their April 29 deadline, setting as a precondition that eastern Jerusalem be accepted as an Arab capital.
Regarding the international convention requests which Abbas would reportedly suspend as part of the deal, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday signed official documents to confirm reception of ten of the requests to conventions co-signed by the UN.
Ban wrote in the official documents that the "State of Palestine" would added to the international conventions on May 2, marking 30 days from Abbas's request.