Reported Kerry-Netanyahu deal frees hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Pollard

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and freeze West Bank settlement building, and the United States would free Jonathan Pollard under a reported deal reached between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kerry and Netanyahu met Monday night and Tuesday morning in Israel in an attempt to prevent the U.S.-backed peace negotiations from breaking down. Kerry’s visit to Israel was unplanned.

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The secretary of state did not meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but Kerry is scheduled to return on Wednesday night to meet with him in Ramallah. Kerry left Israel on Tuesday afternoon to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels.

According to reports in the Arab media as well as by international news services, under the deal discussed by Kerry and Netanyahu, Israel would release the final group of 26 Palestinian prisoners agreed to in August as well as several hundred others. Israel also would agree to a freeze in settlement construction in the West Bank, though not eastern Jerusalem, and the freeze would be unannounced.

Meanwhile, news agencies citing “sources close to the negotiations” said Pollard, the convicted American spy for Israel serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison, could be free by Passover as part of the deal. Passover starts on the night of April 14.

The agreement is awaiting approval from Ramallah, according to Israel Radio.

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