With Israeli-Palestinian peace talks teetering on the brink of collapse, US officials are mulling a desperate bid to resuscitate the negotiations by making a significant move that would win the approval of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition, one that may perhaps include the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, Israel Radio reported on Sunday.
Citing Western diplomatic sources, Israel Radio reported that Obama administration officials have not ruled out Netanyahu’s proposal that Pollard be released in exchange for Israel’s agreement to free Israeli Arabs convicted of terrorist acts, as has been demanded by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The sources would not say whether they believed President Barack Obama would agree to such a move, according to Israel Radio.
Senior Israeli officials told Israel Radio that the peace process is in danger of collapsing. If no agreement is reached between Israel and the PA regarding the fourth installment of the prisoner release, which was originally scheduled to take place next week, the negotiations could break down completely.
The officials said that Abbas has hardened his positions and refused Obama’s request to soften his demands as they relate to the prisoner release, according to Israel Radio.
The officials did indicate, however, that a creative formula could be found regarding Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
The government has been adamant in refusing to release Palestinian citizens of Israel primarily due to the sensitivity of the issue. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon repeated his intention on Sunday to resign if Israel goes ahead with the scheduled prisoner release.
Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked told Channel 10 that she was opposed to freeing Israeli Arabs.
“We didn’t say we would leave the government,” she said. “What we said was that we would not agree to sit in a government that frees 104 terrorists. We understand that this was what the prime minister committed to, and we will not agree to a number larger than this.”
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