People mourn at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial Museum in Yerevan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Bills to recognize the Armenian Genocide by the Turks were back on the Knesset’s agenda on Wednesday, after Turkey and Israel expelled each other’s envoys.
Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuly and Likud MK Amir Ohana both said they would submit legislation to make Israel the 30th country to recognize the genocide of 1915, in which the Ottoman Empire took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians.
The move came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Israel for defending its border with the Gaza Strip from Palestinian rioters. Erdogan recalled his ambassador from Israel and, on Twitter, called Israel “an apartheid state that has occupied a defenseless people’s lands for 60+ years,” thus saying the Jewish state’s existence is not legitimate, as opposed to just its presence in the disputed West Bank since 1967.
After Jerusalem withdrew its ambassador from Ankara, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that Erdogan is a supporter of Hamas terrorism, the MKs said the time has come to recognize the Armenian Genocide by the Turks, a move that Israel has avoided because of relations with Ankara.
Shmuly said: “We won’t accept moralizing from the antisemitic Turkish butcher who bombs thousands of Kurds in northwest Syria every day and whose country is responsible for the genocide of the Armenian people and the historic horrors toward the Assyrians.”
The Zionist Union MK added that recognition of the genocide should have happened long ago.
Ohana said the diplomatic rationale behind not acknowledging the genocide no longer exists, and “it’s not too late to do justice. The time has come to officially recognize the terrible injustice done to the Armenians.
“When Hitler presented Wehrmacht officers with his plan for mass extermination in Poland, including of women and children, he soothed the concerns about the world’s reaction by saying, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the Armenians?’ For that reason alone we should have already officially recognized this genocide,” Ohana said.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid proposed a bill to recognize the genocide earlier this year, but it was voted down in February, which means it cannot be submitted again until August
He called for Israel to downgrade ties with Ankara, and not just temporarily, along with recognizing the Armenian Genocide, openly helping the Kurds and encouraging the US to remove Turkey from NATO.
“We don’t reconcile with antisemites like Erdogan,” Lapid said. “The time has come for the government to say what has been clear for a long time: Erdogan is part of the axis of Islamic terrorism.”
The Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
A diplomatic source said the situation is delicate and strategic, and it would be Netanyahu’s decision whether to recognize the genocide.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, a close Netanyahu ally, sounded unenthusiastic about the idea in an interview with Kann Bet radio.
“I don’t think that this is the right way to do it. If we want to make a decision like this, it should be about the matter itself. Doing it as a punishment for the Turks doesn’t respect the matter. It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to do this,” Levin argued, and expressed optimism that Israel-Turkey ties would improve.
Levin also discouraged Israelis from traveling to Turkey, a popular tourist destination, saying that many Israelis have encountered hostility while there.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has called for the legislature to recognize the Armenian Genocide, as did his predecessor, President Reuven Rivlin. Many bills to recognize the atrocities were proposed and voted down over the years, but the Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee has voted to recognize the genocide.