Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally intervened to block a bill that would have Israel recognize the Armenian Genocide, which was supposed to go to a ministerial vote Sunday, but Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg put her motion back on the Knesset’s agenda for next week.
Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, chose to postpone the Ministerial Committee for Legislation debate on the bipartisan bill, proposed by Likud MK Amir Ohana and Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli.
The Foreign Ministry said it “recommended that the prime minister postpone the discussion of the bill to recognize the Armenian Genocide until after the elections in Turkey, because this discussion could would help [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan in the elections. The prime minister accepted the Foreign Ministry’s recommendation.”
The Turkish election is set to take place on June 24.
Shmuli said the Foreign Ministry’s explanation is “false and ridiculous.”
“If foreign ministries around the world would act in such a cowardly and utilitarian way when it came to recognizing the Jewish Holocaust, they would have recommended to remove their recognition of the tragedy, God forbid,” Shmuli said.
According to the Zionist Union MK, the prime minister of the Jewish state should not follow Erdogan’s lead. Doing so, he said, makes him “an active partner in denying that a nation was slaughtered in concentration camps and death marches.”
In response to Netanyahu’s move, Zandberg put her motion to recognize the Armenian Genocide back on the Knesset’s agenda for June 12, which means there would be a discussion a vote on the matter in the plenum.
Last week, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein removed Zandberg’s motion from the agenda, saying he supports it but is concerned that there would not be enough votes for it to be approved. Zandberg criticized him, saying the decision was political.
Zandberg plans to try again next week. “It is our moral and historic imperative to be the first to recognize, to speak, to cry the cries of the Armenian people,” she said. “In our case and that of the Armenians, the great powers knew about the murders and did nothing to prevent them. They stood silently. That is why we say ‘Never again.’”
The Ottoman government systematically killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, and recognizing that genocide has the potential to anger Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Tensions between Israel and Turkey are already high, with the countries withdrawing their ambassadors after Turkey supported Hamas when the terrorist organization tried to violently break through the Gaza border into Israel last month. Turkey criticized the IDF response, which resulted in the death of more than 60 Gazans, the vast majority of whom were Hamas terrorists, according to Hamas’s own count.
However, Israel and Azerbaijan have warm ties, and the latter’s proximity to Iran makes it a strategic ally, important to Israeli security.
Azerbaijan is in an ongoing conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.