Fearing Turkey, Knesset avoids recognizing Armenian genocideSource : http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=2392
Knesset members and historians urge public not to deny the genocide • Foreign Ministry exerts pressure, and members of the Education Committee decide against holding a vote • Knesset speaker: It is our obligation to remember.
The Knesset Education Committee on Monday held a hearing on whether or not to recognize the mass murder of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as a genocide, but fearing the wrath of its former ally Turkey, decided to end the session without a vote.
Historians and experts who took part in the discussion urged their audience not to engage in denial of the tragedy. "Those who deny the Armenian genocide deny all of human history. We have a moral obligation of the highest order to recognize the Armenian genocide," Professor Yehuda Bauer, a Holocaust expert at the Hebrew University, said at the hearing.
Turkey and Israel were once warm allies, but their relationship has deteriorated over the past few years and is now at a bare-bones diplomatic level.
To the chagrin of the hearing's initiators MKs Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) and Aryeh Eldad (National Union), the committee was unable to come to a resolution. "I think this was a missed opportunity," Gal-On said after the hearing. "I assume the decision was not made due to pressure from the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry."
"I am greatly disappointed," Eldad said. "The committee chairman capitulated and no decision was made for fear of triggering Turkish sensitivities. For years we've been told not to go near this issue because our relationship with Turkey was good, and now they say that our relationship is not good, and that's the reason why we can't address the issue."
Education Committee Chairman MK Alex Miller explained that the issue is very complex and sensitive. His committee, he said, would hold additional hearings on the topic in the future.
"This isn't a political issue but a moral one of the highest order," Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said during the hearing. "We have a moral obligation to remember and remind others of the tragedy that befell the Armenian nation." Rivlin said he does not view a commemoration of the Armenian tragedy as a provocation against the Turks.
Irit Lillian, director of the Europe Department at the Foreign Ministry, came out in opposition of recognition. She said at the hearing that thus far only 21 countries have recognized the Armenian genocide but that doesn't mean that all the other countries are immoral. "This is a political issue that could, heaven forbid, cause our relations with Turkey to further deteriorate. Our relations with Turkey at present are so fragile that we must avoid crossing any red lines. Otherwise, we could find ourselves facing very severe strategic repercussions."
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