While the diplomatic crisis with Turkey churns onward, the Knesset decided on Wednesday to put recognition of the Armenian Genocide to a vote for the first time.
Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg, who advanced the issue, declared that “this is our moral and historic obligation. Some things are above politics.”
Until now, Israel has avoiding taking a formal stand on the question of whether the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Turkish forces in World War I should be classified as genocide. Turkey has made its sensitivities about the matter known — that it rejects the allegation — and Israeli officials have put relations with Turkey above the questions of history and morality.
The motion passed 16-10 in a mostly empty plenum. A vote on the recognition itself will probably take place next Tuesday, according to Zandberg’s office.
Zandberg and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who supports the move, sought to dispel the impression that the bill was introduced in retaliation for Turkey’s hostile actions in recent days, including expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, calling for an investigation of the Gaza bloodshed and threatening a boycott of Israeli goods.
“The Knesset must recognize the Armenian Genocide because it’s the right thing to do, as people and as Jews,” Edelstein said. “For years I’ve been calling to fulfill this moral obligation.”
At the same time, Edelstein said he is “embarrassed to hear elected and public officials talking about the recognition of the genocide as an appropriate Zionist response to Turkey’s despicable acts after recent events on the Gaza border.
“Since when does Ankara pull the strings on our morality? Does history change according to our relations with a ruler like Erdogan?” Edelstein asked.
Zandberg refuted the link to the current tensions with Ankara, noting that she submitted the motion before they started, and that Meretz has done so on the closest possible date to Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, on April 24th, each year since 1989.
Among the 29 countries that have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide are Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Lebanon and Syria.