Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Knesset must do the moral thing and recognize the Armenian genocide, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said at a Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee meeting on Wednesday.
“I visited one of the Armenian memorial sites, and it is very hard to ignore what I saw there,” the speaker recounted.
“I expect that the Knesset and I will behave appropriately so that we can make decisions according to the moral standards of a democratic state.”
Worldwide, 28 countries, including Canada, France and Germany, recognize the genocide, in which up to 1.5 million Armenians were murdered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire authorities.
“I will try to promote the issue, and I hope that MKs will know the right way to vote in the moment of truth,” Edelstein stated.
Operation Protective Edge
This April, the Knesset sent a delegation to the Armenian government’s 100th anniversary ceremony, but despite the visit, Israel does not formally recognize the genocide. The policy is believed to exist in the hope that it can repair ties with Turkey, which perpetrated the genocide but does not recognize it. Azerbaijan, which has good ties with Israel, has fraught relations with Armenia and shares Turkey’s position on the matter.
Education, Culture and Sport Committee chairman Ya’acov Margi (Shas) also called on the government to formally recognize the atrocity, saying that “we are aware of the diplomatic sensitivities, but we overcame them, and the time has come for the government to do so, too.” He added that such a move would be “in keeping with Jewish values.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On, who initiated the meeting along with MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), said that “ignoring the Armenian genocide will bring the next genocide,” and that it would “bring honor” to Israel to recognize it.
Shai, who attended the memorial ceremony in Armenia, said that Israel “wants to be in the international arena with countries that respect morals. Israel, the state of the Jewish people, must recognize what happened to the Armenians.”
He added that doing so would not change relations with Turkey or Azerbaijan.
The Foreign Ministry’s representative at the debate, Oded Yosef, said that Israel maintained ongoing cooperation with Armenia in many international forums, but that the international debate as to whether there was a genocide or not was a “political one about semantics.”