The latest point of contention between Moscow and Jerusalem doesn’t focus on the Syrian civil war or the Iranian threat, or even on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
No, this argument between the two countries revolves around real estate in Tel Aviv, specifically the Russian Embassy on Hayarkon Street.
The Russians’ lease on the building expires in June, and embassy sources claim that the landlord, a foreign national, plans to raise the rent to over $1 million, according to Yedioth Ahronoth. The Russians see this as an exorbitant sum, considering that the building has plumbing problems and dampness issues and the landlord has yet to make the necessary repairs.
It’s not clear if the demand is for monthly or yearly rent, though a monthly fee in that area seems highly unlikely.
Nevertheless, embassy sources said that the man has delivered an ultimatum — sign a new lease agreeing to the landlord’s conditions, or clear out and find a new home for the Russian mission.
The landlord, however, told a different story. He claimed that the tenants have made changes to his building and are planning future changes — all in violation of the lease.
Unlike “normal” landlord-tenant disputes, the Russians have kicked this one up a notch. The embassy has turned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and claimed that the landlord’s threat of eviction endangers the embassy staff’s diplomatic immunity and violates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
That treaty, ratified in 1961, established the framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries and protected diplomats from being harassed by host countries. The treaty is considered the cornerstone of diplomatic immunity.
The Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic law division opined that the embassy’s immunity should protect it from an eviction notice. The matter is currently being hashed out between lawyers from both sides.
Government sources in Jerusalem reportedly said they hope the real estate issue is resolved quickly so as not to create a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.