Following a report on Channel 13 on Monday night that as part of the efforts to release Naama Issachar Russia is demanding possession of Alexander’s Court in the Old City, Ma’ariv on Wednesday morning published a document confirming that Israel had already responded to the Russian demand, and did it three weeks ago.
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) tweeted in response: “In 2003, Sharon informed Putin that he would hand over Alexander’s Court if Russia stopped selling weapons in the Middle East. Tomorrow, Netanyahu will hand it over in exchange for a girl who shouldn’t have been in custody for one second.” And he concluded: “We used to have strong leaders.”
The land on which Alexander’s Court was built, Which includes the Alexander Nevsky Church and several other buildings, was purchased in 1859 by Czar Alexander III, Emperor of Russia, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Finland.
The dispute over who owned Alexander’s Court began after the Russian Revolution of 1917, with two organizations bearing nearly identical names claiming ownership of the complex. The first is the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, founded in 1882 by Vasily Khitrovo with the approval of Alexander III. It actually runs the complex. The competing organization is the Imperial Pravoslav Palestine Society, which is closely associated with the current czar in the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin.
In response to a Maariv inquiry, the Russian foreign ministry stated that on December 30, 2019, Israel hjad made a formal decision to transfer ownership of Alexander’s Court to the Imperial Pravoslav Palestine Society, and even published a document confirming this transfer.
So, to be clear, Israel was going to recognize the ownership over the Russian compound in the Old City sooner or later anyway – although it had been sitting on that decision since 2015. The Naama Issachar arrest and ridiculously harsh sentence of seven and a half years in jail over possession of 9.5 grams of hashish was just an incentive. Initially, the Russians were hoping to prevent the extradition of a Russian criminal hacker to the Americans in exchange for the Israeli woman sniffed by a customs dog in Moscow airport. Now they’ll get a nice piece of real estate.
As to MK Omer Bar-Lev’s sentimental yearning for strong leaders – we have strong leaders, in the Kremlin.