Russia has agreed to open a consulate in Jerusalem. True, it’s not an Embassy, but it’s also something more than an ordinary consulate. It will have, for example, living quarters for consulate personnel, and a conference hall. Israel, in turn, will recognize the plot of land on which the consulate is built, and about which there has been a long and contentious history, as Russian property.
More on this consulate opening can be found here: “Russia to open new Israel embassy branch in Jerusalem,” by Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, June 16, 2023:
Russia plans to open a branch of its embassy in Jerusalem in exchange for acknowledging the boundaries of Moscow’s historical and present ownership of the plot of land on which the office will be built, the sides announced on Friday.
The “branch office of the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in Israel,” as the embassy calls it, will be opened on the corner of King George and Ma’alot streets in downtown Jerusalem, where a parking lot is currently located, after Russia and the Jerusalem Municipality, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, signed an agreement clarifying the boundaries of the plot.
For years, there have been property disputes in Jerusalem between the Russian Orthodox Church based in Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church in exile, between the Russian Orthodox Church and Israel, and especially between the Russian government and Israel. The main property that has been at issue is the St. Alexander Nevsky Church, and the Alexander Square, in the Old City. Another source of contention is a very valuable plot of land right in the center of Jerusalem, at the corner of King George and Ma’alot Street. It has been used until now as a parking lot. Now it will become the site of what is to be called “the Consular section of the Russian Embassy in Israel,” a verbal formulation that suggests it will be closely linked –more like a branch office than an entirely separate office – to the Embassy. Israelis will see it as a welcome half-way measure, establishing a Russian diplomatic presence in Jerusalem that may be a promising prologue to a future move of the Embassy itself from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Foreign Ministry said that the building complex will include a residence for Russian diplomats and a conference hall, which makes it more than a regular consulate.
Elder of Ziyon comments:
While it isn’t a full embassy, it is nearly as significant as an embassy would be. The Russian diplomatic building would appear to violate the 1980 United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, which called for “Those States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City;”
This structure should be thought of as a Consulate plus, with living quarters for its diplomats and a conference hall, neither of which are usually included in a consulate building. Its establishment also violates the UN Security Resolution 478, passed in 1980, that called on states with diplomatic missions – consulates or embassies – in Jerusalem to withdraw them. Not only is Russia not withdrawing a mission from Jerusalem, but it is now establishing a new mission – this Consulate plus – in the city, in direct defiance of UNSC Resolution 478.
Elder of Ziyon adds:
It will be recalled that at the same time the world was freaking out over the US Embassy moving to Jerusalem and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Russia said that it recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as well. Yet there was practically no negative response to Russia’s announcement at the time.
While attention was focused in 2018 on Trump’s much-discussed move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, Russia at the same time said that it recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Arabs did not respond, no doubt unwilling to anger the Russians, and perhaps thinking that if they let the Russian statement pass in silence. nothing would come of it. And nothing did. Having made their declaration that West Jerusalem was the “capital of Israel,” the Russians left it at that.
But the Russians have long sought to establish their claim to various properties in Jerusalem, and now, after years of discussion and litigation, they have settled at least one of those property disputes. The Israeli government has now recognized as Russian property this plot of land in the very heart of Jerusalem where Russia has agreed to build its new Consulate plus. Russia has had its claim to some very expensive property in the very heart of Jerusalem at long last recognized as valid, and Israel has had another major power openly recognize that west Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state, which is a step away from transferring the Russian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Elder of Ziyon:
We can probably expect the same muted response from the Palestinian Authority now.
The Arabi21 site reached out to the PA Foreign Ministry for comment, and they punted, saying they are checking the story, “in order to verify its authenticity, because we do not base our positions on what is published in the Hebrew media.”
Since then, I see nothing about this announcement on the official Palestinian news sites.
In short, no one wants to upset Russia. Attacking the US is not only accepted but almost mandatory.
In 2018, when Russia first declared that Jerusalem was indeed the capital of Israel, neither the Palestinians nor the other Arabs commented, much less condemned, the announcement. None of them want to antagonize the Russians who, unlike the Americans, don’t believe in turning the other cheek, and are certain to remember any perceived slight. And the same code of silence has been observed again just now.The Palestinians have not uttered a peep about the Russian consulate about to be built in Jerusalem. Getting on Putin’s wrong side might lead him to do something even worse – like move the Russian embassy to Jerusalem.
And for Mahmoud Abbas there is another, piquant consideration that may make him determined not to comment. When Abbas lived in Moscow and studied at Patrice Lumumba University, where he wrote his Holocaust-minimizing thesis on the supposed “collaboration” between the Nazis and the Zionists, he was approached in 1983, a year after he received his doctorate, to work for the KGB. There is evidence that he accepted the offer – after all, it was a way to supplement what was then a most meager student stipend, and Abbas has always been interested in money. More on that can be found here.
Confirmation of his work as a KGB spy in the 1980s was found in the documents smuggled out of Russia by former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin in 1991.
An Israeli researcher, Gideon Remez, has said that “Some of the material, now in the Churchill Archives of Britain’s Cambridge University, was released two years ago for public research, and the Truman Institute [at Hebrew University] requested a file marked “the Middle East.”
“There’s a group of summaries or excerpts there that all come under a headline of persons cultivated by the KGB in the year 1983,” he said.
“Now one of these items is all of two lines … it starts with the codename of the person, ‘Krotov’, which is derived from the Russian word for ‘mole’, and then ‘Abbas, Mahmoud, born 1935 in Palestine, member of the central committee of Fatah and the PLO, in Damascus ‘agent of the KGB’,” Remez said.
Mahmoud Abbas knows that were he to now criticize the opening of the Russian consulate in Jerusalem, Putin might very well release the evidence that Mahmoud Abbas worked as a spy for the KGB in the 1980s, beginning in 1983 – not out of any ideological fervor, but solely for the money. It’s a story that Abbas has denied in the past, but if Putin himself were to release all the information about Abbas’ work as a KGB agent he possesses, including the reports he sent to Moscow about Palestinians and Syrians, this would cause a terrific furor among his fellow Palestinians that would certainly cost him his job, and possibly his family its fortune as well. He’s not going to criticize the Russians about anything.