Bargaining chip in Israel-Russia relations
According to Israeli media, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with the ministerial group yesterday to discuss the transfer of the Alexander’s Courtyard to Russia. Following the discussion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a final decision.
The issue of ownership of the “Russian Compound” in Jerusalem is fundamental to Russia. One might even say sacred. The sacredness of the place is connected not only with its strategic location (Jerusalem is the center of the world history and religions), but also with the fact that in 1964 part of the buildings was sold to Israel by Nikita Khrushchev as part of the “Orange Deal” (the agreement was signed in Jerusalem by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Golda Meir and Minister of Finance P. Sapir from the Israeli side and be the USSR to Israel Ambassador M. Bodrov). Exactly 10 years before that, Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR, which, as everyone remembers, was “returned” to Russia in 2014. “What Khrushchev handed out, we will return,” said Sergey Stepashin, Chairman of the (Imperial) Orthodox Palestine Society (OPS).
The issue of return of the property appeared on the agenda in the 1990s, when diplomatic contacts between Moscow and Tel Aviv were restored. The complex of buildings “Russian Compound”, apparently, is a certain bargaining chip in relations between Israel and Russia. As in October 2020, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began promoting the Russian request, according to a number of experts, as a goodwill gesture in response to the release of Naama Issachar from a Russian prison (held in Russia on drug smuggling charges).
There is an assumption that the current discussion of the transfer of the Alexander’s Courtyard arose as a result of the decision by the Russian side to leave the Jewish Agency office in Russia alone. Provided that the Sochnut will work in a very truncated format (without any offline formats and the absence of representative offices in the regions of Russia), preventing repatriation propaganda.
No doubt, the issue of transferring the Alexander’s Courtyard to Russia is one of the tests of the 30-year friendship between Russia and Israel. But it is not the most difficult one, standing next to such topics as the war with Ukraine and the potential direct confrontation between Israel and Iran.