President Barack Obama hasn’t made a decision on whether to release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as part of Middle East peace negotiations, the White House said Tuesday.
Talk of releasing Pollard -- who is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel -- arose as Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Israel on Monday to try to settle a dispute between Israel and Palestinians over the release of Palestinian prisoners.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that Israeli officials “frequently raise this issue, and they have raised this issue in our discussions,” but said he would not “get ahead” of Kerry’s discussions.
Still, Carney said “the need for and benefits of a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a peace that provides the Palestinians with their own state and provides security to a democratic Jewish state of Israel transcend this issue, and many others that are part of the discussion that we have.”
Pollard’s incarceration since his conviction in 1987 has been a source of tension between the U.S. and Israel, which continually calls on the U.S. to release the American.
Obama was pressed during a trip to Israel last year by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release Pollard, but said in an Israeli television interview before the trip that a pardon was unlikely, noting Pollard “committed a very serious crime here in the United States.”