Proposed Mideast deal envisages Palestinian inmates for Israel spy

A further 400 prisoners who had not shed Israeli blood and who were within months of completing their sentences would be set free in the deal. (File photo: Reuters)

A deal is emerging in which teetering Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations could win a reprieve and a jailed U.S.-Israeli spy would go free, a source close to talks said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP) on condition of anonymity shortly after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a 15-hour visit to Jerusalem, the source said one element of the plan would see the release within two weeks of Jonathan Pollard, who has served more than 28 years of a life sentence.

In exchange, Israel would unblock a delayed release of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners it holds, some of whom are Israeli citizens, in a move vehemently opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition partners and hardliners in his own Likud party.

"The emerging deal... contains the following elements: the release of Jonathan Pollard before the Passover holiday (in mid April) and the extension of the negotiations with the Palestinians into 2015," the source told AFP.

He did not specify when in 2015 the talks, which were due to have concluded by April 29 this year, would be extended to.

In addition, he said, a further 400 prisoners who had not shed Israeli blood and who were within months of completing their sentences would be set free.

Israel would restrict new government tenders for building in the occupied West Bank, not including annexed east Jerusalem, he added, again without giving a timeframe.

Netanyahu has previously pledged that any such deal would be put to his cabinet for its approval.

The Palestinians say they will not even discuss any extension of the negotiating period unless Israel frees the 26 prisoners, the remaining batch of 104 it pledged to release under an agreement that brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July 2013.

U.S. efforts to salvage the negotiations moved into high gear on Monday when Kerry flew in for a whirlwind visit which saw him meeting twice with Netanyahu.

Kerry was back on a plane at 0745 GMT heading to Europe for a NATO meeting in Brussels, although a senior Palestinian source said he would return to the region within 24 hours for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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