News / Middle East

    Deal in the Works to Possibly Extend Mideast Talks

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as they meet in Jerusalem, March 31, 2014.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as they meet in Jerusalem, March 31, 2014.
    Scott StearnsScott Bobb
    Officials close to the Mideast peace talks say an agreement is emerging that would extend negotiations through 2015 in exchange for the release of a convicted American spying for Israel.

    The deal would also include the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and a partial freeze on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hammered out details of the plan Tuesday, during their second set of talks in as many days.

    Kerry, who also met with Palestinian negotiators, will return to Israel and Ramallah for further talks on Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

    Under the proposed deal, Jonathan Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, would be released before the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins in mid-April.

    The deal would not include a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, AP reported, but "would envisage Israel commiting to showing 'great restraint' and not issue new housing tenders."
     
    FILE - In this Friday, May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C.FILE - In this Friday, May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C.
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    FILE - In this Friday, May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C.
    FILE - In this Friday, May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C.
    Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was arrested in 1985 and pleaded guilty to passing classified documents to Israel, including information on Soviet weapons. U.S. presidents have consistently refused Israeli pleas to free Pollard, who was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995.

    Far-right members of Prime Minister Netanyahu's ruling coalition oppose additional prisoner releases. If U.S. President Barack Obama frees Pollard, it could quiet those objections and give the Israeli leader room to reach a broader settlement.

    Breaking with past policy on Pollard appears less of a political risk for Obama because many leading Republicans now support his release, including U.S. Senator John McCain and former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz.

    Peace talk push



    Kerry unexpectedly returned to the region for the second time in less than a week Monday, to keep the peace talks from collapsing.

    Palestinians are threatening to quit the talks now if Israel does not free the last group of detainees agreed to in a deal that opened this peace process eight months ago.
     
    Israel had demanded the Palestinians agree to extend the talks before it released the last group of Palestinian prisoners as agreed upon in the deal that revived the peace talks eight months ago.
     
    The Palestinians said suspending the release violated the terms of the deal, and threatened to abandon the talks.
     
    The head of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research Khalil Shikaki says Netanyahu needs concessions from the Palestinians in order to appease intense opposition to the release by right-wing members of his coalition.  But he says Palestinian leaders cannot accept some of Israel's demands.
     
    "The basic compromises that this Israeli government is willing to endorse are unacceptable to the majority of the Palestinians," Shikaki said.  "And so there is no chance if the same issues are going to be on the table.  The Palestinians would be happy to move along with something similar to what they have done in the past, but with the current demands."  
     
    He said the unacceptable demands include a long-term Israeli military presence in parts of the West Bank, a demand that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish character of Israel, and other issues regarding Jerusalem and any possible territorial swaps.
     
    A team of U.S. diplomats have been meeting intensively with both sides in recent days trying to bridge the differences.

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    by: JohnWV from: USA
    April 01, 2014 10:15 AM
    Two territorial conquests: Russia's of Ukraine and America-Israel's of Palestine. By civilian vote, Crimea preferred to join Russia and the remainder of Ukraine was interested. America-Israel has annexed much of the state of Palestine, reduced the rest to an open air prison, and repeatedly used attack jets and white phosphorous against its inmates and infrastructure for generations. Fathers, mothers and children are being killed, splattered actually. We enjoy a near 100 to one kill ratio. However can Russia be sanctioned when we are not?

    by: ali baba from: new york
    April 01, 2014 6:49 AM
    Israel should not ask to release a spy person to continue a middle east negation. the middle east talking is for 66 years and never get better . may be john Kerry and Obama both are believing that they can make a miracle. there is no miracle in middle east . it seems to me that Israeli is too strong and they can get what they want because Washington is run by lawyers whom experience in foreign policy is very low. the progress in middle east talk will not yield any significant result and spy get free which he did not deserve

    by: charlie from: california
    April 01, 2014 12:59 AM
    I voted for Obama twice, and Kerry once, and the only thing this will help is get Rand Paul elected president of the US. Going to go down bad after the spy is released, gets a hero's welcome in Israel and the talks don't go anywhere except where they've been going for 20 years - building an apartheid state. Paul is the only electable guy I know of now who can stop this run away train by cutting off the money and UN support that feeds it. Obama was the first Black I voted for, maybe Paul will be the first Libertarian. Cause I can't see how he jibes with either of the parties we've got now. Time for a big change.

    by: Not Again from: Canada
    April 01, 2014 12:40 AM
    The so called peace pathway process is not advancing very well at all, notwithstanding the fact that Sec Kerry is bending over backwards to get a deal, he has extracted a massive number of concessions from Israel; eg: no country on the planet has released persons convicted of planning, carrying out, deliberately targeting and killing civilians. Amongst the 100+ released convicts many, if not most, have the deaths and blood of civilians, including many elderly, women and children on their hands. No concessions from Mr. Abbas/PA have been observed. The fact that the discussions have not at all dealt with the demilitarization of Gaza, it is not possible to think that peace can come about. The issue of the recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, in essence that Jews have a right to live in peace, happiness and prosper in/over their ancestral lands, has been rejected by Mr. Abbas/PA+. The issue of security and the need to ensure all terrorists are demilitarized, is far from being addressed. Mr. Abbas has totally rejected any concessions, and he has most emphatically vocalized this fact, in numerous public satements, placing the Israeli gvmt in an untenable position. The point is observed, that the entire process can't be considered as a negotiation, but a litany of one sided dictums. Such severe intransigence can not result in peace. So far these one sided negotiations have demonstrated, that the root of the conflict is not only about borders, but the core issue is the recognition that these are the ancestral lands of the Jewish people, which archeology, and history clearly demonstrates; and not just Jewish records, but also Greek, Roman, and even Islamic records show this fact. I do hope the negotiations continue, for the benefit of all and for peace, but they need to be in good faith, and not just dictums.

    by: McBearsNY from: albany
    March 31, 2014 10:52 PM
    There is no reason why Pollard should have to do with anything the U.S. and Israel are dealing with in the middle east. Pollard should be kept in jail for life and anything short of that would hurt Obamas image at home

    by: flypaper from: NY
    March 31, 2014 10:45 PM
    You have to be kidding.....Who thought this one up? Pollard is and was a traitor to the US and should rot away where he is. Although Pollard and Kerry are cut from the same cloth....both turned there back on the people they served with...

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