Palestinian and Israeli Arab officials said Monday that they would not oppose a possible US-brokered deal in which Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard be released as an American gesture to help the Israeli cabinet pass a proposal to free 14 Israeli Arabs convicted of terrorist acts.
Israel committed to release the fourth and final round of Palestinian prisoners Saturday night. But American mediators incorrectly told their Palestinian interlocutors that Israel would agree to release 14 Israeli Arabs as part of the deal.
The Palestinians have said they would leave the negotiating table if the Israeli Arab prisoners are not released. There is currently no majority in the Israeli cabinet to release them.
But the release of the Israeli Arabs would pass easily if Pollard was included.
Kadoura Fares, who directs the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, said releasing Pollard could be a positive step.
“I never opposed Pollard’s release,” he said. “We think it could be something good that could contribute to progress between the two sides.”
Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former minister for prisoner affairs in the Palestinian Authority, said Pollard had nothing to do with the Palestinians but that they would not interfere if he was included in a deal.
“If the US wants to release him as a goodwill gesture we will not oppose it,” he said.
Hadash MK Hanna Swaid said Israeli Arabs would also not be against such a deal.
“I see no problem with it if it can contribute to achieving peace,” Swaid said. “It is a practical idea that should be pursued and implemented. It has only benefits.”
A minister who strongly opposes releasing the prisoners said Monday that if Pollard were included in the deal, he would have to reconsider his opposition.
“The Americans are very generous with our prisoners, not theirs,” he said. “I don’t see America making such a deal, but I might be surprised. You never know.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.