Knesset gives no decision on ‘Armenian killings’

Knesset gives no decision on ‘Armenian killings’

Knesset gives no decision on ‘Armenian killings’

A general view shows the plenum as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.

Over their prime minister’s objections, Israeli lawmakers yesterday began debating a proposal to recognize the “mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks,” with no final decision.

The discussion was unusually held in the Knesset’s education committee, described as the weakest committee in terms of its political weight. It can not make any political decisions. It can only give recommendations for educational issues.

In past years, the Knesset held hearings on the subject, but only behind the closed doors of its foreign and defense committees. This was the first time such a discussion was open to the public mainly because the all the discussions in the education committee are open to press coverage. As expected. the committee did not make any decisions or issue any declaration, and will meet again on the issue in the future. Although the media reports said the Knesset debated to recognize “Armenian genocide” yesterday, the word “genocide” was not used in the original Hebrew version of the proposal, Israeli sources said.

Committee Chairman Alex Miller of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu – the party headed by Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman – said the discussion would focus on the “educational and academic” aspects of the issue, such as the correct way to address it in schools and universities, rather than its security and diplomatic angles. 

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also stressed that the issue was not a political one, Agence France-Presse reported. “The subject has not arisen at the Knesset because things happened between Israel and Turkey; not because we want to exploit a political situation in order to settle accounts,” he told the committee at the start of its debate.

But a foreign ministry representative at the discussion warned of the repercussions an Israeli move toward recognizing Armenian genocide allegations could have on the already-strained relations with Turkey. “Our relations with them are so fragile today, it is not right to push them over the red line,” Irit Lillian said. “Such recognition at this stage could have severe ramifications.” Lilian said very openly Foreign Minister’s opinion on the issue that “it is not political debate, it should be a historical or academically searched topic.” 

An Israeli government official confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested the debate be canceled because “it would be better for the country if this did not take place.” 

Aryeh Eldad of the right-wing National Union party, who along with Zehava Gal-On of the left-wing Meretz party initiated the hearing, said, “In the past it was wrong to bring up the issue because our ties with Turkey were good; now it is wrong because our ties with them are bad. When will the time be right?” Lawmakers’ proposals to hold hearings on the issue were rejected by governments over the years, when ties between Israel and Turkey were warm. But relations plunged into deep crisis last year when Israeli forces killed nine Turks in a raid on a Turkish ferry, part of an activist flotilla seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.