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Tuesday Sept. 21, 2010 9:16 AM (EST+7)
Israel seeking spies release in exchange for freeze extension

Read more: Jonathon Pollard, Israeli spy, settlement freeze, settlement moratorium, peace talks

RAMALLAH, Sept. 21 (JMCC) - Israel has been seeking the release of an Israeli spy serving a life sentence in the United States in exchange for an extension on the freeze of settlement building set to expire at the end of the month.

According to Israel's Army Radio, Israel has been motioning for the release for years as part of peace efforts, and sees the release of Jonathon Pollard as a means of appeasing Israel's right-wing that oppose the settlement freeze.

Army radio said that Netanyahu had asked an unnamed intermediary to sound out the Obama administration on the proposal, but it is not known what response was received. Other Israeli media reported that the prime minister dispatched the intermediary to approach the Americans discreetly, and unofficially.

Netanyahu's office initially said: We know of no query to the Americans on this matter, but later was more equivocal. Israeli officials dismissed the prospect of a deal for Pollard's release over such a short time frame but, given that Netanyahu has attempted to attach the convicted spy's freedom to earlier peace talks, it is likely that the issue is being broached.

Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlers, condemned any proposal to swap Pollard for an extension of the settlement freeze: The very idea is an ugly form of blackmail. Should we also agree to give up the Golan Heights in exchange for Gilad Shalit [an Israeli soldier held by Hamas in Gaza]?

However, any deal is likely to meet stiff resistance from US intelligence which has previously scuppered plans to free Pollard. Netanyahu has said Israel does not plan to extend the moratorium on settlement building, and officials are not commenting on how the issue might be resolved, saying only that Israel does not want people leaving the table.

Read the full story at The Guardian...






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