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Court cancels Netanyahu’s gift to Putin: ownership of Jerusalem church

During Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is forced to make a difficult decision about Alexander’s Courtyard in Jerusalem

alexander's courtyard in Jerusalem wikimedia commons Feb 2020 (crroped) credit Rakoon
Alexander’s courtyard in Jerusalem /Wikimedia commons Feb 2020 (cropped) / credit Rakoon

Judge Mordechai Kaduri of Jerusalem’s District Court today has canceled the registration of the Russian government’s ownership rights to Jerusalem’s Alexander’s Courtyard.  kicking the issue to the Israeli government. Globes was the first to publish this story.

The verdict came in response to an appeal by the Orthodox Palestine Society of the Holy Land, which owned the church until it was handed over to the Russian government last year.

The extremely sensitive piece of property in the heart of Jerusalem, near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City, also known as the Church of Alexander Nevsky, was given in 2020 as a gift of appreciation or “payment” from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin released Naama Issachar, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for allegedly smuggling 10 grams of cannabis during a layover in Moscow. Netanyahu not only paid by giving away a piece of land, but also flew over to take a photo with the young Israeli girl, and bring her back home in his plane.

Three years earlier, in 2017, Putin’s administration filed a registration request with Israel’s land registry inspector on the ground that Czar Alexander II acquired the site for Alexander’s Court, popularly known as the Alexander Nevsky Church, in 1859.

The area was under the administration of the Russian Imperial government until the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Netanyahu determined that the ownership dispute between various Christian groups fell under the category of “holy sites,” and hence could not be settled in a court of law under British Mandate law from a century ago.

Shortly thereafter, Israel’s property registry inspector accepted the Russian government’s request and registered the Russian government as the owner of Alexander’s Courtyard. In response to a series of objections to the move, the Land Registry Commissioner stated that the Russian Federation had been recognized as a “continuing state” of the Russian Empire by international organizations and the State of Israel.

If the property is defined as a holy site, Judge Kaduri determined that the competent body to decide who owns the holy site is not an administrative body or a court, but the Israeli government.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has attempted to avoid stepping on Putin’s toes during this sensitive time, is forced to decide on the ownership of the Old City church, which has already sparked enormous difficulties between Israel and Vladimir Putin’s government.



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