Sources: Coalition crisis brewing over prisoner release deal to save peace talks

Majority of Bayit Yehudi MKs reportedly think party should leave coalition if 400 Palestinian prisoners freed, despite release of Pollard.

April 6, 2014 16:51
2 minute read.
Prisoner release

'Stop the release of terrorists', activists's signs say at vigil outside PM's residence in Jerusalem, March 23. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A possible coalition crisis was brewing on Tuesday over the emerging deal to save peace talks, which includes an Israeli obligation to release 400 more Palestinian prisoners.

Officials involved in the talks between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry to ensure negotiations continue said that the additional prisoner release was part of the deal, as well as a partial settlement freeze and the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard from a US prison prior to the start of Passover on April 14.

A Bayit Yehudi party source said Tuesday that seven of the party's 12 MKs think the faction should leave the coalition if the government agrees to free 400 prisoners, even if Pollard is also freed as party of the deal.

A right-wing senior minister who was supposed to meet with Almagor Terror Victims Organization chief Meir Indor on Tuesday canceled the meeting citing a coalition crisis over the deal as the reason.

Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel of Bayit Yehudi said on Tuesday he would oppose any such accord that would see Pollard go free in exchange for the release of more Palestinian prisoners, telling Army Radio that Pollard himself was against being part of a prisoner exchange.

"I was personally told he is against being released in such a disgraceful deal," said Ariel, arguing that Pollard deserved unconditional freedom and not to be swapped for Palestinian "murderers."

US officials have said that a deal allowing negotiations to continue could include the release of Jonathan Pollard, who has spent more than 25 years in an American jail after being convicted of spying for Israel. 

US intelligence agencies have long opposed any early release of Pollard, who pleaded guilty in 1987 to charges of spying for Israel and US officials said no decision on his release has yet been made.

Including Pollard in the deal is apparently part of a US effort to give Netanyahu the leeway he may need to convince coalition hardliners who object to the release of more Palestinian prisoners.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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