TEL AVIV (Jerusalem Post)—The Knesset must do the moral thing and recognize the Armenian Genocide, Israeli 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,” Edelstein recounted. “I expect that I and the Knesset behave appropriately so that we can make decisions according to the moral standards of a democratic state.”
During the meeting, Edelstein explained that though many governments do not recognize the atrocity as an act of genocide, their parliaments clearly do.
“I will try to promote the issue and I hope that MKs [Members of Knesset] will know the right way to vote in the moment of truth,” he stated.
Only 22 countries recognize the 1915 massacres of Ottoman Armenians as genocide, most recebtly including Germany, Belgium, and Brazil.
Though the Knesset sent a delegation to Armenia to participate in the Armenian government’s 100th anniversary commemoration ceremony in April, Israel does not formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, hoping that it can repair ties with Turkey. Israel is also friendly with Azerbaijan, being a major trading and security partner.
Education, Culture and Sport Committee Chairman Ya’acov Margi said, “We are aware of the diplomatic sensitivities, but we overcame them and the time has come for the government to do so, too.”
Margi called for the Israeli government to recognize the Genocide and for the Knesset plenum to make a historic decision in keeping with Jewish values.
“Ignoring [the Armenian Genocide] will bring the next genocide,” said MK Zehava Gal-On, who initiated the meeting along with MK Nachman Shai.
Shai, who attended the memorial ceremony in Armenia, said: “We want 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. Nothing will change in our relations with Turkey or Azerbaijan.”
Foreign Ministry representative Oded Yosef said that Israel has ties with Armenia and cooperates with the country on many projects, but the international debate as to whether Ottoman Armenians were victims of genocide or not is a political one about semantics.
“It would bring honor to Israel to recognize the Armenian Genocide. It was a tragedy, but the word tragedy is not enough,” said Gal-On in response to the Foreign Ministry’s statement.