JERUSALEM—Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Monday that he wanted to convene an annual parliamentary session of the full Knesset to mark the Armenian Genocide. “It is my duty as a Jew and Israeli to recognize the tragedies of other peoples,” Rivlin said.
Rivlin added that diplomatic considerations, important as they may be, should not deter us from recognizing a tragecy experienced by another people, reported the Haaretz newspaper.
In recent years the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry have applied heavy pressure to head off such sessions of the Knesset out of concern that relations between Israel and Turkey would be harmed. Turkey denies that it committed genocide against the Armenians.
Since 2008, the full Knesset has allowed the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to hold sessions that have been closed to the media about the Armenian genocide. Last week, for the first time, the full Knesset approved the convening of an open, public session on the issue by the Education, Culture and Sports Committee, at the request of Meretz Knesset member Zahava Gal-On. This represents a complete change in approach on the issue.
As part of the Foreign Ministry’s attempt in recent years to block pro-Armenian genocide commemorations, in 2007, ministry staff expressed dissatisfaction with plans to hold a session in the Knesset plenum on the issue. The prime minister at the time, Ehud Olmert, intervened to have the session canceled.
In October of 2008, in an unprecedented move, the Knesset voted to have a parliamentary committee convene on the Armenian genocide at the initiative of then-Meretz chairman Haim Oron, paving the way for the sessions in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Over the past two years, however, after relations between Israel and Turkey deteriorated, the Foreign Ministry s opposition to the issue abated, though Rivlin s latest move was at his own initiative.
The recognition of the Genocide and issues related to commemorating April 24 will be debated in coming weeks by the relevant committees of the Knesset, said Armenian National Committee of Jerusalem chairman Hagop Sevan, saying that the legislature has reconvened following a long summer break.
Sevan also said that representatives of the ANC Jerusalem will be holding meetings with Knesset members in coming days and weeks.