US Offers Release of Jonathan Pollard to Keep Peace Talks Alive

In this file photo, Jonathan Pollard is pictured during an interview at the Federal Correctional Institute in Butner, N.C. on May 15, 1998. Karl DeBlaker/AP Photo.

As the current round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians hit their nine-month deadline, the Obama administration introduced a Hail Mary-esque offer to keep the Israelis at the table: the release of Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. spy who provided intelligence to the Israelis and has been serving a life sentence since 1987.

Israel decided not to release 30 Palestinian prisoners last week, a provision of the current round of talks, because it first wanted a commitment from the Palestinian side that they would extend talks beyond the current April 29 deadline.

A U.S. official said Pollard is one of several options being considered in order to keep the Israelis at the table and give way to a diplomatic domino effect: Israel releases the prisoners and agrees to another item on the Palestinian "wish list" like a settlement freeze in the West Bank or the release of elderly and female prisoners in order to keep the Palestinians talking for another set period of time.

The Palestinians have threatened to seek full member status at the United Nations if Israel does not release this batch of prisoners.

Pollard has long been a cause célèbre for pro-Israel activists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2002, Benjamin Netanyahu, now the Prime Minister but who was then out of office, visited Pollard in his North Carolina prison.

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