A senior Kremlin official stated on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Naama Issachar’s mother, Yaffa Issachar, on Thursday.
It was stated that Putin will meet with Issachar during his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, following Israeli news reports in the past few days that Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding ownership of Alexander’s Court near the Old City of Jerusalem in exchange for releasing Naama, Maariv reported on Wednesday morning that it obtained a document confirming that Israel had already complied with the Russian request three weeks ago.
Alexander’s Court, which includes St. Alexander Nevsky Church and other buildings, was originally purchased as part of the Russian Compound by Czar Alexander I in 1858. The Compound was taken over by the Turks during World War I, and then by the Brits who conquered Israel from the Turks in 1917, and finally the Jews in 1948, who returned all the Russian church properties to the Moscow Patriarch, including the Russian Compound. In 1964, Israel purchased the property except for the cathedral and one building with $3.5 million worth of oranges (since they lacked currency at the time).
The transfer of Alexander’s Court is the end of an extended dispute since 1917 about the property’s ownership between two organizations with almost identical names: the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society headed by Nikolai Goffman-Vorontsov, which actually manages the compound, and the Imperial Pravoslav Palestinian Society, headed by Sergei Stepashin, who briefly served as Prime Minister of Russia in 1999 and is a close associate of Putin. In 2015, Dmitry Medvedev, then prime minister of Russia, officially requested that the state of Israel determine the ownership of the compound but the matter was never addressed.
In light of a possible agreement between Israel and Russia for Issachar’s release, Russian diplomat Mikhail Bogdanov, who oversees Russian property in Israel, entered the picture. About a week ago Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud) met with Bogdanov in Moscow to discuss “releasing Naama Issachar for humanitarian reasons.” On Tuesday, Bogdanov arrived in Israel, two days before Putin’s arrival on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum, and again met with Gamliel.
Maariv spoke with a Russian Foreign Ministry official who told Maariv that Israel made a formal decision on December 30, 2019, to transfer ownership of Alexander’s Court to the Kremlin-affiliated Imperial Pravoslav Palestinian Society – in essence to Russia – and even released a document confirming this.
Goffman-Vorontsov told Maariv that he’s surprised by the report and was not informed of any Israeli decision regarding the ownership of Alexander’s Court.
In response to a request from Maariv, the Russian Embassy in Israel said that it “prefers not to relate to the issue and to reports in the Israeli media.”
According to a Channel 12 News report, Putin also wants Israel to ease restrictions for Russian tourists in Israel and reduce its military operations in Syria.
It is also expected that Netanyahu will stress the role of the Russian Red Army in defeating the Nazis in his official speeches on Thursday.
Putin is arriving in Israel on Thursday morning, will meet with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem and the three leaders will then attend the unveiling of a monument for the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in World War II, which will take place in Gan Sacher.
About 100 Russian journalists are arriving in Israel on Thursday to report on Putin’s activities and speech and the monument’s unveiling,
Putin is also meeting with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Beit Lechem on Thursday.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)