POLITICS: PennAve

White House: Obama hasn't made decision on releasing spy Jonathan Pollard

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Israel,PennAve,Middle East,Meghashyam Mali,Jay Carney,Foreign Policy,Palestinians

The White House on Tuesday said President Obama had not made a decision on whether to release spy Jonathan Pollard.

“The president has not made a decision to release Jonathan Pollard,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

“Jonathan Pollard was convicted of espionage and he is serving his sentence,” he added.

Carney sidestepped questions about whether a release was being discussed, but acknowledged that Israeli leaders had “frequently raised” Pollard’s status.

He said that negotiations over the peace talks were continuing but declined to “get into the details of the discussions [Secretary of State John] Kerry has had.”

Carney's comments came after reports suggested that the U.S. was weighing an early release for Pollard, an American who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel, to gain concessions from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to further Mideast peace talks.

Pollard is serving a life sentence for passing classified intelligence to Israel, but is eligible for parole as early as November 2015. Israeli leaders have made his release a key demand in past Mideast negotiations.

A number of media outlets on Tuesday said that the U.S. and Israel were near a deal that would see Pollard released early in exchange for a temporary Israeli settlement freeze and to encourage Netanyahu to release another batch of Palestinian prisoners.

Kerry is pushing for the two sides to agree to a framework to continue negotiations before a self-imposed end of April deadline.

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