WASHINGTON, 2 April-2014 (Xinhua): The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama had not made a decision to release Jonathan Pollard, the convicted American-Israeli spy, a move deemed as part of the ongoing deliberations to salvage the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“What I will tell you is that the president has not made a decision to release Jonathan Pollard,” spokesman Jay Carney said at a regular news briefing, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a lightning visit to Jerusalem for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Israel offered to release 400 more prisoners including Israeli- Arabs and freeze government tenders to build homes in the settlements in exchange for the release of Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy who has been jailed since 1987 for spying for Israel.
Israel has lobbied for Pollard’s release for years and granted him Israeli citizenship in 1995.
“Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage and he is serving his sentence,” Carney said. “I don’t have any other update to provide you on Mr. Pollard’s status.”
“There are, obviously, a lot of things happening in that arena and, you know, I’m not going to get ahead of discussions that are under way,” he added.
Some U.S. lawmakers, among them leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees, on Tuesday voiced their opposition to Pollard’s release.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, restarted in late July last year, are teetering on the brink of collapse as Israel has refused to release the last group of 26 prisoners as agreed under the deal with the Palestinians to resume the talks.
The United States is focusing its efforts on extending the talks beyond the original deadline of April 29 until the end of this year, while the Palestinians have threatened to break off negotiations unless Israel sets free the prisoners.