Eyeing Turkish elections, Israel delays Armenian genocide debate

Netanyahu delayed a ministerial debate on recognizing Turkey’s massacre of the Armenian people as a genocide in order to avoid aiding Islamists in Turkish elections. 

By: World Israel News Staff

At the advice of the Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night delayed a ministerial debate on motions to officially recognize the Armenian genocide.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said that Netanyahu had accepted a recommendation to postpone debating legislation on recognizing the genocide until after the June 24 Turkish elections “because holding the debate on its original schedule might serve Erdogan in his campaign.”

Recognition of the Armenian genocide is deeply unpopular in Turkey. the Ministry explained. If Israel were to take a stand in favor of recognizing the Armenian genocide, Erdogan would take advantage of it to criticize Israel.

Erdogan’s anti-Israel stance has already garnered support from large swathes of Turkey’s populace outside the large city centers who tend to be religious Muslims.

Israeli-Turkish relations are at a nadir

Relations between Israel and Turkey, which have worsened under Erdogan, soured dramatically in recent months.

US President Donald Trump’s decision in December to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was strongly opposed by Erdogan. He has compared Israel to the Nazi regime in the wake of recent clashes on the Israel-Gaza border in which dozens of Palestinians were killed trying to overrun Israel’s border fence.

The ambassadors and consuls general of both Israel and Turkey were expelled to their respective countries.

The Jewish state’s special role

Recognition of the Armenian genocide was raised by politicians on the Right in recent weeks in response to Turkey’s attacks on Israel.

Armenians have long sought international recognition for the 1915-1917 killings in the Ottoman era as genocide, which they say left some 1.5 million of their people dead.

Recognition of the genocide by Israel carries special moral weight for Armenians who identify with the Jewish people’s suffering under the Nazi regime.

MK Yair Lapid, who leads the opposition Yesh Atid party, on Saturday night scorned the government for backing down over the legislation.

“It is time to stop groveling before Erdogan,” Lapid tweeted. “It is time to do the moral and right thing and recognize the genocide of the Armenian people. If the government is afraid of bringing up the law, we will bring it up for a vote, as soon as possible. I call on all of the coalition members who clarified that the moment has come to recognize the genocide of the Armenian people to pass the law together with us.”

Israel’s policy of refraining from formal recognition of the Armenian slaughter as genocide is based on geopolitical and strategic considerations, and primary among them its relations with Turkey.

The United States has similarly avoided recognition of the mass killings over fears of angering Turkey.