Amid Tensions With Turkey, Israeli Government Won’t Object to Debate on Armenian Genocide Recognition

The Israeli government informed the Knesset on Wednesday that it will not submit a response to a motion to hold a debate at the Knesset on recognizing the Armenian genocide. The government in the past objected to hold such debates at the Knesset.

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg plans to submit a motion to the plenum Wednesday to hold a debate on recognizing the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman government early last century.

Meretz had submitted similar resolutions in recent years that were subsequently debated in the Knesset Education Committee. This time she plans to submit the motion to the entire Knesset and insist that the full Knesset debate it, rather than one of the committees. The lawmakers will be asked to support or oppose her request.

The Knesset has been marking the Armenian genocide every year since 2012, but proposals of the sort are usually blocked because of the special relationship with Azerbaijan. The assumption is they will be blocked again.

Last week, several coalition MKs announced their intention to submit draft legislation on recognizing the Armenian genocide in response to anti-Israel comments and actions by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Education Minister Naftali Bennett asked Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to “approve official recognition by the State of Israel of the Armenian Holocaust committed by Turkey.”

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Zandberg said Tuesday, “For many years now Israel has been evading recognition of the Armenian genocide, one of the most despicable acts of murder in the 20th century. This lack of recognition is a moral stain on Israel and on every country that chooses, out of its own interests, to ignore the suffering of the other. For us it is a matter of morality and not a momentary political act.”

Meretz led the struggle to recognize the genocide back in the days of Yossi Sarid. As education minister in 2000, Sarid attended an event marking the 85th anniversary of the genocide in the Armenian Church in Jerusalem. At the event, Sarid called on the Israeli government, then headed by Ehud Barak, to officially recognize the genocide. During his tenure as education minister, content about the Armenian genocide was included in the school curriculum, but it was removed by the Likud government when it returned to power.

Also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the genocide in question was the systematic killing of 1,500,000 Aremanians by the Ottoman government during and after World War I. Most of those killed were citizens of the Ottoman empire.