Israel’s parliament voted down on Wednesday an opposition motion to officially recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
The Knesset rejected the bill introduced by Yair Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid party, by 41 votes to 28 after a first-ever debate on the sensitive issue held on the Israeli parliament floor.
The bill describes the World War One-era extermination of some 1.5 million Armenians as genocide and calls for its official remembrance in Israel.
Lapid made a case for the passage of the measure in a 3-minute speech that preceded the vote. He said an official Israeli recognition of the genocide is “a matter of conscience for Jews and non-Jews.” Also, he said, the mass killings and deportations of Armenians inspired Adolf Hitler to mastermind the Jewish Holocaust.
However, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely voiced the Israeli government’s opposition to the measure during the heated discussion. She cited the “complexity” of the issue and its “diplomatic repercussions.”
Successive Israeli governments have opposed Armenian genocide recognition lest it antagonize Turkey, a former security partner of Israel. Some Israeli politicians have openly challenged this policy in recent years. The Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelstein, called the Armenian massacres a genocide and urged the Jewish state to recognize it in 2015.
The Knesset debate on the genocide issue coincided with a visit to Israel by a delegation of Armenian parliamentarians. The five lawmakers representing various Armenian political groups were offered to attend the debate but declined to do that.