Reports are circulating that President Barack Obama might pardon Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who has spent nearly three decades in prison, as a way of enticing Israel to continue its participation in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority that have gone nowhere. This is a manifestly bad idea for everyone involved.
Pollard should never have received a life sentence, especially after pleading guilty. His sentence far exceeds that given to spies who have worked for enemies, yet he spied for an ally. He was likely the victim of antisemitism. He is in ailing health. All of that suggests he should be released anyway, on independent grounds of justice.
The peace negotiations are going nowhere because the Palestinians are not interested in peace talks. They are enticed–as always–by the prospect that some foreign power (in this case, Iran) might rise up to destroy the Jewish state that they refuse to recognize. They see Obama pressuring Israel. They like their current odds.
If the Israeli government were to sacrifice security interests for Pollard’s sake, it would be doing a disservice to its own citizens as well as to Americans, who deserve to see justice done for its own sake. The two issues are separate–something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to understand in the past.