Israel conditions the extension of a partial freeze on settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian lands on the freedom of one of Tel Aviv’s spies imprisoned in the US.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked the US to release the agent, Jonathan Pollard, in exchange for a temporary halt in Tel Aviv’s construction of the Jewish settlements, Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post wrote on Sunday.
Tel Aviv refused to renew a partial 10-month moratorium on its September 26 expiration date, breaking off Washington-backed direct talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
A September piece, ran by the prominent British daily The Guardian, quoted Israel’s Army Radio as saying that Netanyahu was ready to extend the partial freeze for three months in return for the release.
A former US Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard was arrested by the country’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on charges of selling classified material to Israel, which was later sold to the Soviets. In 1987, Pollard was convicted of espionage and sentenced to life imprisonment.
He has already spent 25 years in prison with Israeli leaders pressing unsuccessfully for his freedom. In 1998, Netanyahu said that “if we signed an agreement, I expected a pardon for Pollard.”
Israel is accused of hunting for military and dual-use civilian technology on the US soil through espionage activities with impunity.
Former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Philip Giraldi has said the Israeli lobby’s massive clout has prevented Washington from addressing Tel Aviv regarding the spying issue, which has been going on for many years.
While each side has rated the other as its strongest strategic ally, relations between the two have been marred historically and repeatedly due to several incidents, involving Israeli fifth columnists.
In 2008, the US arrested an American suspected of spying for Israel.
Ben-Ami Kadish had given Israel secrets on nuclear weapons, fighter jets and missiles in the 1980s. The case was linked to that of Pollard’s.
Should the settlement freeze be extended, it would be used as an incentive for the PA to return to the US-backed talks.
Washington has also reportedly offered to give Tel Aviv twenty F-35 fighters and veto any anti-Israeli resolution at the United Nations Security Council in exchange for the three-month freeze.
The US proposal, however, calls for a halt of construction activities in the occupied West Bank and not East al-Quds (Jerusalem). Tel Aviv occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967 and later annexed them in a move not recognized by the international community.
The Palestinians say that the settlement construction aims to prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Also on Sunday, acting PA Chief Mahmoud Abbas said his organization would not return to the negotiation table, “if there is no complete halt to settlements in all of the Palestinian territories including [al-Quds] Jerusalem,” Reuters reported.