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US Weighing Spy's Release to Boost Mideast Peace Talks

The United States is discussing with Israel the possibility of releasing a convicted Israeli spy as part of a package to resuscitate peace talks with the Palestinians.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday for their second set of talks in as many days. On Monday, Kerry also met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

People familiar with the negotiations say the Obama administration is offering to release spy Jonathan Pollard later this year in exchange for Israel freezing settlement construction in disputed areas and releasing more Palestinian prisoners.

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.

The Israeli-Palestinian 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.

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