Knesset Speaker Calls for Recognition of Armenian Genocide

unnamedKnesset speaker Yuli Edelstein called on Tuesday for the government of Israel to reexamine its official position and recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Edelstein made a statement at the special session marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide which is held annually in Israel’s Parliament. He said Israel can no longer yield to diplomatic pressure.

“It is no secret that Israel has taken an ambivalent stance until now regarding the Armenian genocide,” Edelstein said. “There are many reasons, diplomatic and otherwise, for why Israel has been too hesitant and restrained when it comes to recognition, which downplays the magnitude of the historical event.”

Edelstein called on the government to rethink Israel’s policy on the issue. He noted that he sent a delegation from the Knesset, Nachman Shai and Anat Berko, to Yerevan to participate in the centennial commemorations, while other branches of the government did not have any representation at the events.

“The State of Israel must thoroughly reexamine its official position because history, as we know, cannot be changed,” he said. “We cannot, and are not permitted to cover up the great disaster that gripped the Armenian people and the depth of the moral blow that humanity suffered.”

Edelstein added that as members of the Jewish nation, who are still suffering from the impact of the Holocaust, “we cannot be silent, and we are not permitted to turn a blind eye or downplay the Armenian tragedy.”

The issue of recognizing the Armenian Genocide has been heavily debated in Israeli political circles for years. The traditional policy has been that of denial. The government of Israel does not officially recognize the Armenian Genocide out of fear of damaging its strategic alliance with Turkey.

In recent years, amid a diplomatic crisis with Turkey, the Foreign Ministry has stated that any step towards recognition would add fuel to the fire.

Edelstein’s statement is especially significant because, according to Israeli law, the Knesset speaker is acting president in the absence of the president, Reuven Rivlin, who is abroad on a trip to Germany.

This is not the first time that Israeli lawmakers have urged Israel to recognize the Armenian genocide. Former Knesset speaker and current day president, Reuven Rivlin, is a strong advocate for the recognition of the Armenian genocide. However, at the ceremony held marking the genocide centennial, he avoided using the explicit term “genocide.”