It's a bit far-fetched to search for a conspiracy in the exposure of the Ben-Ami Kadish espionage story. Just as there is no cabal of Israel supporters in America, there is also no conspiracy against Israel on the part of its opponents there.

In criminal and espionage investigations, there is usually very little room for Washington to stop the proceedings for reasons of state. In Washington, in contrast to Jerusalem, Paris and London, anyone daring to obstruct an investigation risks being investigated himself.

Counterespionage officers are the most reviled people in security agencies. Everyone recognizes the importance of keeping secrets, but they grumble about the suffocating presence of the professional paranoids, who are searching for spies under every desk and may listen in on the most senior and trusted officials.

The field security officers, who are generally in a static, no-promotions professional track, get their revenge for this treatment with their determination to turn their assignments into a sacred mission, and to embarrass their superiors by capturing their favorites, both inside and outside the organization.

In late 2001, after he left his post as chief of counterintelligence at the CIA, Dr. James Olson published "The Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence," a guide to this thankless vocation. The tenth one is "Never Give Up," even after decades of fruitless investigation. "The name of the game in CI is persistence... There is no statute of limitations for espionage."

As a case in point, Olson notes, "I applauded my CI colleagues in the FBI when I read not long ago of their arrest in Florida of a former U.S. Army Reserve colonel for alleged espionage against the United States many years earlier. They obviously never gave up." The U.S. Army was also Kadish's employer.

It would appear that the FBI and the Department of Justice decided to base their case against Kadish not only on crimes committed 23 or more years ago - about which he can claim during questioning that he does not remember the details - but also on the recent crime of obstructing an investigation: his conversation with Yossi Yagur and subsequent denial of that fact.

If that is the case, it is a detail that resembles the behavior that eventually incriminated Jonathan Pollard - his frightened contact with his handlers.

It may be odd to realize the fact, but when Kadish's arrest in New York was reported, among the Israelis who should have been shocked were also some who expressed understanding for the investigators. "We would have behaved the same way with an open case," said one highly placed, experienced military official who is no stranger to Yagur and others involved in the Pollard case.

Mixed feelings - professional admiration with national concern - are characteristic of espionage stories between allies, especially when the little fish is spying on the big fish that is protecting him. Roles are reversed and confused, like when soccer players happily hug each other when they play together on the national team but kick each other when on their own local teams.

Reports by the U.S. intelligence community warn that 108 foreign countries collect classified American information - military, economic, industrial and scientific. There are no strict sector borders in these areas, and there is little meaning to the term "American" in a world of multinational companies and products whose components come from suppliers on every continent.

China heads the list of these countries. The head of counterintelligence for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Joel Brenner, warned last year that those going to the Olympic Games in Beijing will be stripped bare of all their secrets. One of his friends, Brenner related, observed five attempts to hack into his laptop between when he touched down at the airport and when he reached his hotel room.

What is tolerated due to helplessness when it comes to China, Russia and Cuba is prohibited for Israel, (which is on the top of the spies list), France and other friends. Every Pollard, every Kadish, reinforces the national-religious label of Judas Iscariot, a kiss on the cheek and a knife in the back, and in the case of the IDF and Israeli intelligence, the hero who is also a thief, the pilot who is also a pickpocket.

It doesn't take a grandiose scheme in order to persuade American Jews to photocopy secret information on behalf of Israel. Nearly all of them volunteered, eager to help and to feel that they were contributing to the war effort, especially after 1967 and even more so after 1973.

What is needed - and lacking - is cold, strategic thinking in order to understand that this is a dangerous game. The spying in the U.S. helped to shorten development schedules, to save billions, to know the enemy, and at the end of the day perhaps also to save lives - but at the price of jeopardizing the main support column of the State of Israel. For years everyone in the Prime Minister's Office and the Defense Ministry should have known - and most of them did - and everyone is responsible.