Obama administration officials were pressed today on reports they are considering releasing Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in an effort to salvage Mideast peace talks, but said they did not have an "update on his status."
The reports of a deal including Pollard have percolated for about a week, but the Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official today as saying, “There is a possibility that the release of spy Jonathan Pollard will come as part of the deal being worked out right now.”
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki and White House spokesperson Jay Carney gave the same response, almost word-for-word, in today’s briefings: “Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage and is serving his sentence. I do not have any update for you on his status.”
The State Department spokesperson Marie Harf, added: “Rumors about what may or may not be on the table is certainly not breaking news in terms of these negotiations and it's not just new to the last few weeks.”
Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst, is serving a life term in a North Carolina prison after pleading guilty in 1987 to spying for Israel from June 1984 until he was arrested in November 1985.
The latest threat to the peace talks is a refusal by Israel to release a fourth round of Palestinian prisoners, which Israel has said it will not do until the Palestinians agree to continue talks past the end of March.
Israel has frequently sought Pollard's release but a string of U.S. presidents have refused.