Pollard may be released to save peace talks

Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard

Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard may be released by the United States in a bid to save the Middle East peace process, according to new reports.

A US official told the New York Times that no decisions had been made, but confirmed there had been talks about releasing the American jailed for spying for Israel.

If the former US Navy intelligence analyst is released, it is expected Israel would in turn make significant concessions to the Palestinians in return.

Mr Pollard was jailed for life in 1987 for passing documents to Israel.

The news comes after US Secretary of State John Kerry interrupted his schedule to fly to Israel on Monday for urgent talks about the peace process.

He urged Israel and the Palestinians to extend the peace talks beyond the April 29 deadline amid concerns they were collapsing.

During his visit he held two meetings, one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and a discussions with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, before flying out after only several hours.

None of the sides has commented on the talks.

It i s believed a disagreement about the release of a fourth tranche of 26 long - term Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails are holding the talks back.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had insisted that they be freed by March 29 , as promised by Israel before the direct negotiations resumed.

But Israeli officials have said they are reluctant to move forward unless the Palestinians agree to extending the talks.

They say the release of Palestinian prisoners has always been tied to the progress of the peace talks.

Previous releases of Palestinian prisoners were unpopular with the Israeli public because many of them were convicted of murdering Israelis.

The potential release of Mr Pollard is believed to have emerged as an incentive for Israeli co-operation.

America has previously refused to release Mr Pollard despite repeated pleas from Israeli leaders.

However, last year President Obama told Israeli television he would make sure Mr Pollard's sentence would be "accorded the same kinds of review" as every other American prisoner.

Last updated: 10:38am, April 1 2014