Several news sources in the Middle East are reporting that the U.S. is set to release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel releasing a final batch of convicted Palestinian terrorists, while freezing settlement construction. Pollard has been in prison for nearly three decades, serving a life sentence. He is eligible for parole next year.
Palestinians, in return, will pull back from seeking formal recognition from fifteen different UN bodies–although it is already barred by the Oslo accords, signed in 1993, from doing so.
Al-Arabiya News is quoted by Yahoo! as reporting that the deal would extend talks for an unspecified time beyond the original April 29 deadline. The Israeli news site ynetnews.com (the online version of the daily Yediot Achronot) reports that the State Department has denied reports of a deal, but also cites Palestinian news sources that suggest U.S. special enjoy Martin Indyk met with representatives of both sides on Thursday.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Israel solely for the end of the peace process, in what Israeli commentators now deride as the “poof” speech: “The prisoners were not released by Israel on the day they were supposed to be released and then another day passed and another day–and then 700 units were approved in Jerusalem and then poof,” Kerry told Congress. Kerry’s own behavior betrays the falsehood of that claim: he canceled meetings with the Palestinian leadership after they applied to the UN bodies for recognition.
Separately, the Washington Free Beacon reported Thursday that Indyk was suspected of planting media stories on the Obama administration’s behalf that would create the impression Israel had been the obstacle to peace.