Isabel Kershner
The New York Times (Analysis)
September 20, 2010 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM — Israeli officials have tried to float a trade-off in which they would extend the temporary moratorium on settlement construction in exchange for the release by the United States of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel and is serving a life term in an American jail, Israel’s Army Radio reported Monday.

The idea would be that the exchange might help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to sell an extension of the partial settlement freeze on the West Bank to his rightist ministers, the radio said. The moratorium is due to expire on Sunday, and Palestinian leaders have threatened to halt the fledgling American-sponsored peace talks with the Israelis if construction resumes.

The radio cited an unnamed diplomatic official as saying that the proposal had been raised in the Israeli prime minister’s office “as one of many ideas.” It said a private individual had been asked to try to gauge the potential of such an initiative “discreetly and informally” with American officials.

“The Israelis have mentioned it in recent days,” said a senior American official. “This is an important issue for israeli governments going back more than a decade. It surfaces from time to time and has again.”

Israeli officials in Jerusalem had no immediate comment.

Mr. Pollard, who worked for the Navy as a civilian intelligence analyst, began spying for Israel after he approached an Israeli officer in 1984. He was sentenced three years later to life in prison, and several American presidents have refused previous Israeli requests to commute his sentence.

Mr. Netanyahu made Mr. Pollard’s case a bargaining point in negotiations with the Palestinians in 1998, during his first term as prime minister. Mr. Netanyahu told President Bill Clinton that he needed Mr. Pollard’s release to win support for a peace agreement, senior American officials said at the time.


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