In a landmark case, an Egyptian bank is suing the Israeli government in Israel for the return of its shares in the King David Hotel, Jerusalem. Is this a case of Egyptian chutzpa, given that Egypt has seized much Jewish property? The case is shrouded in opacity and ambiguity, but could open a legal can of worms. Report in the Times of Israel, based on an article (Hebrew) in the Calcalist:
An Egyptian bank has filed a lawsuit to
reclaim its shares in Jerusalem’s luxurious King David Hotel, bought
before the establishment of the State of Israel, the Calcalist daily
reported on Monday.
bank, government-owned Banque Misr, submitted a lawsuit at the
Jerusalem District Court through Israeli lawyers Ron Yeshayahu and Gil
Makov demanding the restoration of 1,000 stocks in the hotel which it
owned in the past.
The iconic King David Hotel, the hotel of
choice for visiting heads of state and many other VIP guests, was built
at the initiative of Jewish Egyptian businessmen in 1929.
Egypt’s Zilkha Bank (founded by Jews – ed), which also invested in its
construction, was allotted 1,000 shares when it opened. In the 1960s
Zilkha Bank was merged with another bank when then-Egyptian president
Jamal Abdel Nasser nationalized all Egyptian banks, establishing Banque
Banque Misr has 500 branches in Egypt and other countries.
Over the years ownership of the King David
Hotel has passed through several hands. Today it is owned by the network
of Dan hotels.
Banque Misr first made its claim for stocks in
the hotel in 2008, after Israeli-Arab lawyer Ashraf Jasser alerted the
bank to the fact that it still deserved ownership of hotel shares.
The Egyptian bank appointed Jasser to file a
lawsuit on its behalf, but the lawyer ended up swindling the bank,
claiming that filing the suit required court fees of NIS 10 million
($2.6 million). After receiving the money, Jasser filed the lawsuit –
paying the actual NIS 975 ($258) fee – and pocketed the remainder of the
For this and other acts of fraud, Jasser was
convicted in the Haifa District Court two years ago and sentenced to
nine years in prison.
Levana Zamir, newly-elected chairman of the Forum of Organisations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel, comments:
“The State of Israel, through the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, is being sued by Bank Misr – and rightly so. This
is what happens when the Israeli government refuses to claim the vast
remaining Jewish property in Egypt – both private and communal. Article
8 of the Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt states a Claims Commission must be established,
but to-date such a commission has not yet been established, and the loss is the State of Israel’s. This could make the state treasury liable for billions of
dollars, some of it, of course, going to the Jews of Egypt as compensation. Israel ‘s failure also applies to Iraq, Libya, and Syria and all the
Jews in Arab countries. Failure of the State of Israel to secure
the restitution of seized Jewish property in Arab countries,
would cause endless problems. “
|Lawyer Ron Yeshayahu representing Bank Misr (Photo: Orel Cohen)|
The King David Hotel today