No, You Can't Have Your Spy Back.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to formally ask President Obama to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. Read Spencer Ackerman, who knows about these things, for some context to this story, which includes, rather interestingly, the Center for American Progress' national security expert Larry Korb.

It strikes me as pretty gutsy, however, for Netanyahu to ask for Pollard's release on humanitarian grounds after making zero concessions to American requests during the past two years -- indeed, even going so far as to reject international law limiting illegal settlements. I would say a bigger humanitarian concern than Pollard, a convicted criminal living in jail, are the conditions on the Gaza Strip or Palestinians' lack of political rights.

Now Pollard has been in jail for a long time. Perhaps he deserves clemency; I'm not familiar enough with the details of his case to really make any judgment. But given the lack of cooperation this administration has received from Israel, and indeed the Netanyahu government's tendency to time decisions contrary to U.S. policy for maximum embarrassment, they ought to think about sweetening this deal. The White House's ultimate decision on this question will tell us a good deal about relative standing in U.S.- Israel relations.

-- Tim Fernholz

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