Israel’s parliament agreed on Wednesday to again consider a draft resolution recognizing the World War One-era mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.
The Knesset decided by 12 votes to 8, with one abstention, that one of its standing committees will discuss the resolution and determine whether it should be put to a full parliament vote.
Speaker Reuven Rivlin was among those who voted for the decision. Significantly, a representative of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also backed a parliament debate on the bill drafted by Haim Oron, the leader of the left-wing opposition Meretz party.
Most of the lawmakers voting against its inclusion on the parliament agenda were from the Yisrael Beiteinu party, a junior partner in Netanyahu’s coalition government that mainly represents Jewish immigrants from Soviet republics and Azerbaijan in particular. One of them, the Baku-born Yosef Shagal, said Israel should not pass judgment on what he described as a Turkish-Armenian dispute.
It is not yet clear which Knesset committee will pick up the measure. Oron wants it to be debated by the Education Committee, having failed to push similar bills through the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2009 and 2008. But both Rivlin and Netanyahu’s representative said that the latter panel should again deal with the matter.
The Defense Committee did not even vote on the Armenian genocide resolutions in the past, despite clearance from the Knesset. It thus highlighted successive Israeli governments’ reluctance to antagonize Turkey, a rare Muslim partner of the Jewish state.
The Netanyahu government did not back a parliament debate on Armenian genocide recognition on the previous occasion, in May 2009. Commentators might link the apparent shift in its position on the highly sensitive issue to recent months’ worsening of Turkish-Israeli relations.