JERUSALEM—The chairperson of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on Sunday has permitted the discussion of a bill recognizing the Armenian Genocide. The debate is scheduled for Tuesday, reported the Haaretz newspaper.
Knesset chairperson Reuven Rivlin decided to permit the debate for Tuesday after Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On asked for the issue to be discussed in the Knesset last week but it was delayed due to deliberation on another bill.
Israel’s foreign ministry asked to postpone the discussion until after the Knesset hears a report on Israel’s interception of Turkish ships bound for the Gaza Strip. Gal-On refused and pressed for the Armenian Genocide bill to be placed on the agenda.
Gal-On said she did not want to cause problems with Turkey and she wanted relations with the country to improve. But she said she believed the Foreign Ministry was using the comptroller’s report as an excuse to avoid dealing with the controversial Armenian issue, reported the Jerusalem Post.
In December, the Knesset’s Education Committee hosted an unprecedented discussion of the Armenian Genocide and the need for Israel to officially recognize the matter.
At the time, a representative of the Foreign Ministry relayed the ministry’s opposition to the bill. “This subject, given the current atmosphere, could deteriorate our ties with Turkey. Our relationship with Turkey is very fragile and sensitive right now, and we cannot cross the line – we must approach the subject intelligently. Such a decision could have very serious strategic consequences,” said the representative.
Rivlin also commented during the discussion in December. “The subject doesn’t come up in the Knesset because of events that take place between Israel and Turkey, nor because we are trying to take advantage of the political situation to get even. I first entered the Knesset in ’88, and a year later we made a suggestion for a day concerning the Armenian tragedy. We were prevented from speaking about it as a ‘holocaust,’ though we most definitely felt that as humans, as Jews, as citizens of Israel that aren’t Jews, we must bring this subject up, and flood the public with the questions that arise, because we are obligated to prevent denial of the tragedy,” said Rivlin.
“We are standing in front of all the peoples of the world, and saying that denial of a holocaust is something that Humanity cannot agree with. We didn’t come to discuss something political, rather moral,” continued Rivlin.
Gal-On said at the time that “this is an exciting moment, in my opinion, that the Education Committee is holding an open discussion, with a great deal of participation. For years, Israel always considered relations with Turkey. That is the central issue in terms of recognition of the murder of the Armenian people, which has yet to take place in Israel’s Knesset.”
“Unfortunately, relations with Turkey are very tense, and I think that it is in our interest not to make them worse. Israel’s government must advance relations regardless of the Armenian issue; it is a historic and moral obligation,” said Gal-On.
Otniel Schneller, also among the upcoming discussion’s sponsors, was the only one who expressed outright opposition to an official recognition by Israel of the Armenian genocide in December. “We cannot disconnect the discussion from the fact that we must rehabilitate our ties with Turkey – it’s an existential necessity,” he said. “We need to fit in the Middle East even if it is difficult,” said Schneller, in December.