Knesset Postpones Debate on Armenian Genocide Recognition Due to Lack of Majority Support

Last week, the Knesset approved a request by the left-wing Meretz party to hold a Knesset debate and a vote on the issue

A memorial to victims of the Armenian genocide in Yerevan, Armenia, April 24, 2018.
Tigran Mehrabyan/AP

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has postponed a debate and vote on recognizing the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire, the forerunner of modern Turkey, because there isn’t a Knesset majority to support the move. Last week, the Knesset approved a request by the left-wing Meretz party to hold a Knesset debate and a vote on the issue.

Meretz had submitted similar resolutions in recent years that were subsequently debated in the Knesset Education Committee, but this time the party insisted that the issue be addressed by the full Knesset. In the past, the government has consistently objected to holding such a debate in the Knesset. But last week, in the wake of deteriorating ties with Turkey, it did not submit an objection to a discussion and vote on the genocide perpetrated a century ago by the Ottoman Turks.

Edelstein, who supports recognition of the genocide, wrote Wednesday evening to the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, that he intends to bring the issue to a vote as soon as a majority is ensured. After consulting with coalition MKs, the Knesset speaker realized that the factions had not yet decided whether to support a proposal recognizing the genocide.

“As soon as I am convinced that there is a majority in the Knesset for this historic recognition, we will bring it to a vote in the plenum,” Edelstein wrote to the patriarch, adding, “I will do everything in my power and I hope that the efforts will bear fruit.”

Meretz chairman Tamar Zandberg said in response, “Those who spoke grandly just two weeks ago are afraid now. The coalition members’ embarrassing attempt to pass the buck to each other for this is shameful, certainly given the painful issue.

“I call on the coalition members ...to vote as they promised to vote and as basic morality demands. The Armenian community is waiting for justice and that’s not dependent on politics. .”

The Knesset has been marking the Armenian genocide every year since 2012, but such proposals are usually blocked because of Israel’s close ties with Azerbaijan, which is involved in an ongoing military conflict with neighboring Armenia.