If current negotiations with the Russians succeed, a large complex in central Jerusalem will be handed over to control of the Russian government.
The area in question is part or all of what is known as the Russian Compound, so named because it was built and once owned by the Russian government. It was originally constructed as one of the first complexes outside the Old City of Jerusalem, for the purpose of housing the thousands of Christian Russian pilgrims who wished to visit the holy city.
Though the 17-acre area in the heart of Jerusalem, between Jaffa, HaNeviim, and Shivtei Yisrael Streets, was once a bustling center with impressively-built structures, it now is used largely as a courthouse and detention center. The Russian government has of late informed various Israeli Prime Ministers that it would like to reclaim the area - at a price of $100 million.
Negotiations have been underway during the regimes of Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert - very secretly, so as not to arouse the expected storm of public protest.
Despite the secret nature of the talks, Arutz-7's Shimon Cohen reports that Foreign Ministry sources say the talks "regarding the Russian property are proceeding to the satisfaction of both sides... though a final agreement has not yet been reached." The Foreign Ministry wishes to emphasize that the area is not being sold, but rather being "returned" to its former owners.
It is assumed that the deal will only be finalized after the Jerusalem Magistrates Court is able to be relocated to a new building currently being constructed.
A Historic Spot
Legend says that the current-day location of the Russian Compound was the jump-off point for the armies of both Sennacherib and Titus in their respective military campaigns, centuries apart, against the Jewish city. (Sennacherib lost, Titus succeeded.)