Israeli sources reported that a number of Jewish businessmen are holding talks with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, controlled and dominated by the Orthodox Patriarchate in Greece, with the goal of renewing land leases in the city. Some of Israelâ€™s main government buildings, such as the Knesset, the presidentâ€™s residence and office, Chief Rabbinate, and hundreds of units for Jewish settlers are built on lands leased from the Patriarchate.
In 1951, the Patriarchate leased the lands to Zionist settlement agencies for 99 years, and now some Zionist businessmen are trying to have the lease renewed for an additional 99 years. The land in question is 520 dunams (approximately 130 acres).
Several Jewish businessmen, who support the settler movement, are holding talks with officials close to the Patriarchate to ensure that the leases are renewed, and to make sure â€śthe lands remain in Jewish hands.â€ť
The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael in Hebrew), and Israelâ€™s Land Authority, currently hold temporary â€śownershipâ€ť of the lands in question.
Some Jewish and international businessmen look at the issue as a business deal, and as a â€śZionist message to save the land,â€ť Israeli sources reported.
Attorney Leon Amiras who has represented the Patriarchate before, said that he does not wish to be involved in the case on behalf of the Keren Kayemet or Israelâ€™s Land Authority as he â€świll be forced to go to the Old City of Jerusalem to file an application to renew the lease.â€ť
Amiras stated that the case is very sensitive since it is not an ordinary deal as the Church does not have to grant Israel a new lease as a status quo.
He added that if the lease was not renewed, Israel will have to compensate the Church, and that this issue will inflict political harm to Israel.
It is worth mentioning that Greek Orthodox Christians in Palestine are boycotting the Patriarchate for its violations, especially since it does not pay attention to the needs of its followers in Palestine and in occupied East Jerusalem. Most of them are forced to leave their homes as they have no place to live while the Patriarchate is leasing the land to settlers and Zionist organizations.