Israel Hurriedly Handing Over Jerusalem Compound to Russia
The State of Israel is rapidly evacuating Sergei's Court in central Jerusalem and will hand it over to the Russian Embassy on Tuesday.
Diplomatic sources said that the hurried move is being carried out after Russia made it clear to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that it will cancel his planned visit to Moscow next week if Israel does not carry out its commitment to transfer the compound into Russia's hands.
The decision to hand over the court was made in 2008, and was formally announced when then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Russia. The ownership was transferred to Russia but Israel continued a de facto presence in the compound, which currently contains the Jerusalem offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Society for Protection of Nature.
Olmert bowed to Russian diplomatic pressure at the time, and news reports said the relinquishing of the compound was part of an agreement between Russia and Israel that included Russia's abstaining from supplying Iran with sophisticated ground-to-air missiles.
Sergei's Court was owned by Great Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the uncle of Tzar Nicolai II, in his capacity as the chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society (IOPS).