Putin Demands Ownership Of Jerusalem Church Property

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Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Photo: By Adriana Lobba - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

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Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this week demanding that Alexander’s Courtyard in the Christian Quarter of the Old City Of Jerusalem be transferred to Russian ownership.

Alexander’s Courtyard, also known as the Alexander Nevsky Church, was purchased by Czar Alexander II in 1859 and was under the control of the Russian Empire until the Revolution in 1917. In 2019, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised the property to Putin, who had been seeking ownership of the church for years, as a goodwill gesture for the release of Naama Issachar, who was imprisoned in Russia after a small amount of marijuana was found in her possession during a layover in Moscow.

Netanyahu told Putin that Russia could take ownership of the church in 2020, and in that year, Israel’s Land Registry Commissioner indeed registered the Russian government as the owner of Alexander’s Courtyard, under the rationale that the Russian Federation is the continuation of the Russian Empire. However, the Jerusalem District Court later revoked the registry’s decision in response to an appeal by the Orthodox Palestine Society of the Holy Land, ruling that only the Israeli government can make a decision on the ownership of the property. In 2021, Bennett established a committee to determine the property’s ownership but it has yet to convene.

Putin’s pressure on Israel for the property couldn’t come at a worse time, with Israel already running between the raindrops between its need to satisfy its allies by condemning Russia’s actions against Ukraine versus its need to maintain a cordial relationship with Putin, who controls the Syrian/Israeli border airspace. Now Israel finds itself wedged even further between a rock and a hard place, with the transfer of church property to Putin, now accused of quite unholy war crimes and genocide, guaranteed to draw fierce international condemnation.

In addition to the church issue, Israeli Ambassador to Russia Alexander Ben Zvi was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Sunday – days after the Kremlin slammed Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for his remarks condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Israel’s decision to vote for Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council.

“This was a poorly disguised attempt to take advantage of the situation in Ukraine in order to divert the international community’s attention from one of the oldest unresolved conflicts – the Israeli-Palestinian one,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated. “The Israeli government continues to illegally occupy and slowly annex Palestinian territories, resulting in more than 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank living in scattered enclaves cut off from the outside world.”

On Monday, Putin held a phone call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during which he updated him on “Russia’s special military operation to defend the Donbas region” and also condemned “Israel’s actions preventing freedom of worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)


6 COMMENTS

  1. This Putin is a world class criminal. You can even see so by analyzing his loyal frienships and allies: e.g. Siria’s Basher Assad. Qhy is he even relevant? Irrelevant Bennett should tell him that when Russia has a relevant, law-abiding man in charge, he should call back.

  2. This Putin is a world class criminal. You can even see so by analyzing his loyal friendships and allies: e.g. Siria’s Basher Assad. Qhy is he even relevant? Irrelevant Bennett should tell him that when Russia has a relevant, law-abiding man in charge, he should call back.