U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid reports the U.S. may release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as part of a wider package to resuscitate Mideast peace talks.
Sources familiar with the negotiations told news agencies that Pollard's release is not a certainty, but that the possibility is "on the table."
Pollard, a Jewish American, was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he gave thousands of classified documents to his Israeli handlers. He was arrested Washington in 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli embassy in Washington.
He pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents to Israel and received a life sentence.
President Barack Obama and his predecessors have refused to release Pollard, despite pleas from Israeli leaders.
This is the second time in less than a week that Kerry has changed his schedule and come to the region to try to prevent peace talks from collapsing. He is expected to hold additional talks with Mr. Netanyahu on Tuesday and then possibly meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The peace effort has become more contentious in recent days, as Israel declined to carry out the agreed-upon release of a final group of Palestinian prisoners. Those releases were part of the pact that brought the two sides back to the negotiating table for a nine-month period beginning last July.
Israel says it wants the talks extended beyond the period that ends next month, before it will set the prisoners free. The Palestinians object, saying they will walk away from the talks now if Israel fails to release them as promised.
The parties involved in the peace effort have not publicly discussed the details of the negotiations, but there has been little visible progress on narrowing gaps on major issues. These include the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees, borders and security.