An agreement to continue peace talks between Israel and Palestine into 2015 hinged on the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, officials said Tuesday.
They added the agreement is near and will likely involve the release of Pollard, an American with Israel citizenship who was convicted of passing classified information to Israel in 1987. His release has long been supported by current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The proposed agreement would include the release of as many as 400 Palestinians from Israeli jails, and a freeze on construction in the West Bank settlements, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday, and into Tuesday morning, in Jerusalem, arranging the details of the emerging deal, which would require approval by U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The prisoner release would also require a vote by the Israeli cabinet.
"There is an emerging deal. It's not finalized, it's emerging," said an unidentified senior State Department official.
He added the plan calls for Pollard to be released before Passover, which this year occurs on Apr. 14, and for Israel to show "restraint" in building its West Bank settlements, which most of the world views as illegal. Palestine, in turn, would not attempt to join the United Nations and other international agencies, including the International Criminal Court, efforts opposed by Israel and the United States.