Why The U.S. Might Release Israel's Most Notorious Spy

According to several reports, the Obama administration is considering releasing Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to help save Mideast peace talks.
Posted at 1:36 PM, Apr 01, 2014

According to several reports, the White House is considering making a pretty bold move to help save the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

"Jonathan Pollard was convicted of passing secrets to Israel, but now the Obama administration is considering releasing him to salvage Mideast peace talks." ​(Via ABC)

Pollard was arrested back in 1985 for passing secret documents to Israel while he was working as a civilian analyst for the U.S. Navy.

He was convicted two years later and sentenced to life behind bars, and his imprisonment has continued to be a source of tension between the U.S. and Israel ever since. (Via CBS)

Under federal sentencing rules, Pollard will be eligible for parole in November 2015.

But Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been looking to make a deal for Pollard's early release for years now. (Via U.S. Department of State)

And U.S. defense and intelligence officials, particularly members of the CIA, have been against the idea for just as long. 

In 1998, when President Clinton decided to review the case in hopes of moving forward with a Mideast peace agreement, the CIA's director at the time threatened to resign. (Via PBS)

So why would the U.S. consider letting Pollard walk free now?

It would be a pretty daring move, as The Washington Post points out. "The release of Pollard ... would mark a reversal of decades of official U.S. policy." But it could be worth it in terms of the Mideast peace talks.

Sources familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks told CNN, in exchange for Pollard's release, Israel would have to make some concessions to the Palestinians.

These could include a freeze on Israeli settlements in disputed territory, the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and a guarantee that Israel would continue to participate in peace talks beyond the current end-of-April deadline.

News of Pollard's possible release comes just after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made his way to Israel Monday to try to salvage peace negotiations. (Via Jewish News One)

U.S. officials have yet to confirm if an agreement is in the works. But, as the Los Angeles Times notes, they "conspicuously declined to comment" when asked about the possibility of Pollard's release.

President Obama has previously expressed his opposition to Pollard's early release, but his administration is said to be considering it.