Pollard would not want to be released for Palestinians, minister Uri Ariel says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jailed American spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard would not want to be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, an Israeli government minister said.

Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel told Army Radio that Pollard would oppose such a deal as rumors swirled surrounding the possible release of Pollard from a U.S. prison by Passover in exchange for freeing at least 400 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in a last-ditch effort to save the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“I was personally told he is against being released in such a shameful deal,” said Ariel of the Jewish Home party.

A U.S. State Department official told JTA there was no official comment on a possible Pollard release at this stage.

U.S.  intelligence agencies repeatedly have opposed the release of Pollard, a former Defense Department employee who was convicted of spying for Israel in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. He is eligible for parole in November 2015.

Israeli media are reporting that Jewish Home could leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government over the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners — something the parallel release of Pollard is designed to prevent.

Under the reported deal, the Palestinians would agree to continue negotiations through the end of 2015 and refrain from seeking statehood recognition from international bodies. Israel would agree to release 26 Palestinian prisoners who were supposed to have gone free several days ago and at least 400 more prisoners, and to honor an unofficial freeze on construction in settlements in the West Bank.

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