After Naama Issachar was given a disproportionate 7.5-year sentence by Russian court for having 9.5 grams of cannabis in her luggage, the matter was negotiated directly by the Prime Minister’s Office.Russia got the hint – this is a matter of utmost sensitivity to Israelis. And to Russian President Vladimir Putin, if Issachar is so important, the price of her freedom can be raised higher and higher. From the beginning of this ordeal it was clear that there was an ulterior motive on the Russian end. Issachar’s family received messages about Alexei Burkov, an alleged hacker facing extradition to the US. Russia officially denied that Burkov and Issachar’s cases had anything to do with each other, but took the opportunity to complain about what it viewed as hypocrisy, that Jerusalem expected Moscow to override its legal authorities to release Issachar, but wouldn’t do the same favor for them.But Burkov was already extradited a month ago. Revenge can be a strong motivator, but in diplomacy there’s usually a more concrete goal.At this point in the legal process, after Thursday’s appeal was rejected, Issachar is almost out of options and one of the only things that can be done is for Israel to ask Putin to grant her clemency, as a sign of goodwill ahead of his planned visit to Jerusalem on January 23 for the World Holocaust Forum.But for a Putin-level favor, there has to be a Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-level gesture in return.There are two matters that Russian interlocutors have brought up.First, there’s Jerusalem’s ability to be a go-between for Moscow and Washington. Russia’s defense establishment has long pressed Israel to get America to take a more conciliatory approach toward the Kremlin, especially on the matter of sanctions, to little avail. Issachar is a dual American-Israeli citizen, which has come up in talks, but there seems to be little hope of the US getting involved.The other is ownership of land the Ottoman Empire chartered to the Russian Orthodox Church in the 19th century.In 2008, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert promised to give Russia ownership of “Sergei’s Courtyard.”The landmark takes up 36 dunams within the Russian Compound in central Jerusalem, named for Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, son of Tsar Alexander II, who expelled some 20,000 Jews from Moscow months after his Jerusalem guest house was constructed in 1891.The entire Russian Compound was constructed by the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS) between 1860 and 1864 for Russian pilgrims to Jerusalem, but the Ottoman Empire confiscated it during World War I. It subsequently became part of the British Mandate and then it was Israel’s after independence in 1948. Israel bought the lot for $3.5 million worth of Jaffa oranges in 1964, but the IOPS continued operations on the lot, serving as a front for KGB agents. It was fully taken over by Israel after 1967, when the Soviet Union cut diplomatic ties with Israel.Putin has long wanted control of the site, and Ehud Olmert gave him part of it, apparently in exchange for better diplomatic relations.Now, Putin is apparently coming back for more of the Russian Compound to a politically-weak Netanyahu, with a valuable negotiating chip: Issachar.As a Jerusalem Post editorial about the Sergei Courtyard in 2008 pointed out, there is a huge drawback to conceding what, at first glance, seems like just a small plot of land.“Such a handover could... whet the appetites of other international actors... The Greek Orthodox Church owns the land on which the Knesset, Prime Minister’s Residence and parts of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem stand,” the editorial pointed out.Yet a “gift” for Putin is being considered ahead of his visit in January to help free Issachar and to smooth over some kinks in the Israel-Russia deconfliction system when it comes to Syria. Whether that means Russia will expand its foothold in Jerusalem remains to be seen.