Israel surrenders part of downtown Jerusalem to Russia

Sunday, October 05, 2008 |  Israel Today Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday won the cabinet support he needs to officially surrender a large structure in downtown Jerusalem to the Russians when he flies to Moscow on Monday.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin demanded control of the large building known as Sergei's Courtyard four years ago, when he was still president of the Russian Federation. He claimed to have done so on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Olmert promptly acquiesced to Putin's demands, and got to work on the lengthy process of transferring the property, including garnering support for a move many Israelis view with trepidation.

Sergei's Courtyard currently houses offices of the Agriculture Ministry and the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority. It is part of a larger area known as the Russian Compound, 90 percent of which Israel officially owns.

But it is the status of that final 10 percent that is giving many Israeli officials cause for concern.

The Russian, Greek and Roman Catholic Churches technically own huge portions of Jerusalem, including the land on which the Israeli Knesset sits.

Numerous officials have voiced concern that handing over Sergie's Courtyard to the Russian government could open the floodgates for similar demands from other nations.

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