Jonathan Pollard was paid for his espionage by a foreign government. Whether that government was the Soviet Union, China, Great Britain, or as it turned out -- Israel -- Pollard was a compensated enemy of the US national interest and convicted.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just signed on to a letter addressed to President Obama appealing for Pollard's release.
As one former Reagan administration official stated, Pollard ferreted away and transferred to Israel, which allegedly passed along the information to the Soviet Union, the "crown jewels" of America's national security strategy. In virtually any other country outside the United States and Europe, Pollard would have been executed for his deeds.
Some want him released -- but I don't support this -- unless the price is very high.
Convicted spies can be bargaining chips. If Netanyahu were to commit to collapse his government, reassemble with sensible pragmatists in the Knesset, and deliver definitively on an internationally-accepted two-state arrangement between Israel and Palestine, then I would support releasing Pollard to the Israelis.
There is nothing less than that that would suffice as the price for the release of this person who betrayed his nation. Israelis and Palestinians say that they could do a deal -- if both were serious -- in just a few months.
If so, then do the deal -- and release Pollard after the leaders have signed the pact and the Quartet and Arab League have blessed the arrangement.
That would be a price worth giving up a spy for -- but Obama giving him up for anything else would reinforce a view held by some that he is weak while simultaneously sending tremors of outrage through the intelligence community who see Pollard on par with Aldrich Ames and Richard Hanssen.