Israel's parliament on Wednesday rejected a motion recognizing the Turkish mass killings of Armenians dating back to 1915 as a genocide.
"Stop ignoring and rejecting the catastrophe of another people," MP Haim Oron, who submitted the motion, told the plenum before the vote.
"We refuse to accept the turning of a blind eye to the Armenian genocide," the opposition left-wing Meretz party MP said. "We owe this vote not only to the Armenian people, we owe it to ourselves, especially in a period where we are struggling to prolong the memory" of the Nazi Holocaust of six million Jews during World War II.
The motion was nevertheless rejected by parliament in a vote of 16 against 12, with a low turnout by MPs. It would have needed a second ratification if it had passed.
The issue of the Armenian massacre has been raised several times in the past in Israel's Knesset, but there has never been an implicit vote branding it as genocide. If approved, Israel would have joined a growing list of countries which have recognized the killings as genocide. It would have marked April 24, the day when the massacres started in 1915, as Armenian genocide memorial day.
Israel has close diplomatic ties with Turkey -- one of the few Muslim countries with which it has relations -- and has in the past steered clear of the recognition issue.
Oron told AFP he had been under heavy pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office and the foreign ministry to withdraw his motion. "I have been under a lot of pressure, but that is something any MP must face," Oron said. "Turkey has been exerting its pressure everywhere. This is their right. But they can not set the agenda of the Israeli parliament."
Government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said that Israel "did not intend to place itself at the forefront of this issue, which is being handled by the international community."