Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed, upon the recommendation of the foreign ministry, to postpone a parliamentary debate on recognizing the Armenian genocide until after Turkish elections later this month over concern that holding the contentious debate amid heightened tensions with Turkey could serve President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's campaign.A ministerial committee for legislation was due Sunday to hold a preliminary vote on a bill to recognize the Armenian genocide, presented by members of the coalition and opposition and tabled after the latest diplomatic confrontation with Turkey over the conflict with the Palestinians.
"The foreign ministry advised Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) to postpone the discussion on recognising the Armenian genocide until after the elections in Turkey, since such a discussion is liable to aid Erdogan in the elections," ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said."The prime minister accepted the foreign ministry's recommendation," Nahshon added in a statement.Turkey is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, with Erdogan seeking a new mandate.
In a separate parliamentary initiative at the end of May, lawmakers voted in favor of a motion put forward by the left-wing Meretz party to debate recognition of the Armenian genocide -- a move Israel has thus far avoided due to its diplomatic ties with Turkey and Azerbaijan.Meretz party chief Tamar Zandberg insisted that the timing of her motion -- passed as the fragile Israel-Turkey relationship was thrown into disrepair over violent clashes along the Gaza border last month -- had nothing to do with the diplomatic spat between the two countries.Israel's left-wing Meretz has since 1989 tried to approve recognizing the mass killings as a "genocide," with Israeli governments rejecting the efforts because of ties with Turkey.While lawmakers said they did not want the motion to be dictated by prevailing political headwinds, it is the first time in years that the Israeli government has not raised concerns about the political ramifications of the debate.
Turkey unleashed a diplomatic row with Israel in mid-May after more than 60 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli fire in protests and clashes along the Gaza border.
After withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv it later expelled Israel's envoy in Ankara, sparking tit-for-tat expulsions that saw most of the senior representatives of each country to be withdrawn.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also hinted at extending the fight to his country's robust trade relations with Israel, indicating that Turkey would review its economic ties with Israel following the June polls.Erdogan's spokesperson warned last month that Israel would harm itself if it voted in favor of recognizing the Armenian genocide.MP Itzik Shmuli from the opposition's Zionist Union slammed the foreign ministry's explanation on the need to delay the bill as "false and ridiculous"."If foreign ministries in the world would act in such a cowardly and utilitarian manner on recognizing the Holocaust, where would we be today?" he wrote on Twitter.
MP Yair Lapid, who heads the opposition Yesh Atid faction, similarly criticized the decision to back down over the legislation on Saturday night, saying it is time "to stop groveling before Erdogan.""It is time to do the moral and right thing and recognize the genocide of the Armenian people. If the government is afraid to bringing up the law we will bring it up for a vote, as soon as possible. I call on all of the coalition members who notified and clarified that the moment has come to recognize the genocide of the Armenian people to pass the law together with us," Lapid wrote on Twitter.Armenians have long sought international recognition for the 1915-1917 killings in the Ottoman era as genocide, which they say left some 1.5 million of their people dead.But Turkey -- the Ottoman Empire's successor state -- argues that it was a collective tragedy in which equal numbers of Turks and Armenians died.So far, parliaments in more than 20 countries, including Germany, have voted for laws or resolutions explicitly recognizing the Armenian "genocide".