The speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Tuesday described the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide and urged the Jewish state to officially recognize it.
“It is no secret that Israel has taken too ambivalent a stance on the Armenian genocide,” “The Jerusalem Post” quoted Yuli Edelstein as saying during a special Knesset debate on the issue.
“There are many reasons, diplomatic and otherwise, for the Israeli stance being too hesitant and restrained, which downplayed the magnitude of the historical event. We Jews, who are still suffering from the impact of the Holocaust, cannot minimize the tragedy,” Edelstein said.
Israel “cannot afford to remain silent” and should thoroughly examine its official position,” he added, according to “The Times of Israel.”
Edelstein already publicly called the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians a genocide in 2012 when he served as Israel’s public diplomacy and diaspora affairs minister and visited Armenia in that capacity. The Ukrainian-born politician laid a wreath at the Tsitsernabakert genocide memorial in Yerevan during that trip.
News reports from Jerusalem said Edelstein’s stance was backed by several other Knesset members. “What happened in Armenia was genocide; we have come to the conclusion that after 100 years the time has come for humanity to wake up,” said Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union bloc.
Shai and another lawmaker represented Israel at the April 24 commemoration in Yerevan of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
Edelstein, who is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is not the first Knesset speaker to advocate Armenian genocide recognition. Israel’s current President Reuven Rivlin did the same when he headed the Israeli parliament in 2012.
Rivlin reportedly reaffirmed his view on the subject in a closed session with journalists in Jerusalem over a month ago. However, he avoided using the word “genocide” at an April 26 ceremony during which he commemorated Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks.
Successive Israeli governments have opposed genocide recognition lest it antagonize Turkey, until recently a major security partner of Israel. “Israel’s position hasn’t changed,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman reportedly said last month.