The vote, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was quietly pulled from the agenda by the office of the Knesset speaker. His spokesperson is on the record stating that the vote was pulled to avoid embarrassment for the parliament.
MK Tamar Zanberg brought the vote on the Armenian Genocide to the Knesset floor Photo Credit: Sapir College
After a successful motion to vote in the Israeli Parliament on officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide was passed by MK Tamar Zandberg, the current chairwoman of the left-wing Israeli party Meretz, the Knesset was expected to vote on the issue this Tuesday. However, when the week’s Knesset agenda was released by the office of the Knesset speaker, the vote was nowhere to be found on it.
Speaking to the press, the spokesperson for the speaker’s office stated that the vote was pulled in order to avoid potential embarrassment for the Knesset. It was not certain whether the majority needed to pass the bill would be attained, and so the speaker’s decision to pull the bill was apparently a strategic one.
Commenting on the speaker’s decision to pull the bill, Zandberg levied an accusation at the speaker, claiming his office was “putting politics ahead of morality.” The speaker, however, laid praise for the intent of the bill on Monday when he spoke to a gathering of Meretz party members. “Holding this debate, with a historic vote to recognize, is the right thing to do. Some preferred politics to doing the right thing,” he said, adding that “the Knesset should do what it promised. This is a matter of historic justice.”
Potential opposition to the bill from other members of the Knesset likely stem from the potential the bill has to anger Turkey and Azerbaijan, which strictly maintain that the Armenian Genocide did not occur. Currently, the diplomatic relationship between Turkey and Israel is already extremely strained, with both countries choosing to withdraw their ambassadors after Turkey publicly supported Palestinians who engaged in violent demonstrations leading to the storming of the Israel-Gaza border.
Last week, when it was announced that a motion to vote on the bill had passed unanimously, Turkey’s government distributed statements that any move on Israel’s part to recognize the genocide would result in further damage to the two countries’ relationship. The risk of further angering Turkey during this key time of rising tensions is perhaps enough to prevent many Knesset members from voting to pass the bill. Maintaining diplomatic ties with Azerbaijan is perhaps equally important to these MKs, given the country’s strategic geographic location as a neighbor of Iran.
Israel, which contains strong Armenian communities such as the historic Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, has been publicly debating recognizing the genocide on and off since Armenia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Many in Israel, including prominent members of the Israeli government, believe that recognition of the Armenian Genocide is a duty of all Jews, given the people’s history of persecution worldwide. In 2011, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (then Knesset speaker) stated: “It is my duty as a Jew and Israeli to recognize the tragedies of other peoples.”
Multiple Jewish and Israel-related organizations in the United States have already publicly recognized the genocide, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. Yad Vashem, the official Holocaust memorial museum in Israel, has also declared 24 individual Armenians as being “righteous among the nations,” a term reserved for non-Jews who sacrifice much in order to benefit the Jewish nation. The 24 were recognized as such for their heroic acts saving Jewish residents of Europe from the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.
It remains unclear whether the vote on the bill will be put back on the agenda in the near future and whether or not diplomatic relations with Turkey stabilize.