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Israel parliament discusses Armenian ‘genocide’ case

Israel parliament discusses Armenian ‘genocide’ case
Israel’s parliament has held a special session on whether to recognize the killings of Armenians as genocide, even as the government takes new steps to repair relations with Turkey. 

An Israeli parliamentary commission has been tasked with drafting a law on the recognition of mass killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans in 1915 despite warming ties between Israel and Turkey.

The Haaretz daily reported on Tuesday that the Israeli parliament commemorated the so-called Armenian genocide on Tuesday and that both the ruling and opposition parties favor recognizing the tragedy as genocide.

“How many of us are really familiar with the Armenian holocaust? Why are we indifferent when Turkey does not take responsibility?” Ayelet Shaked, a member of Israeli parliamentary body the Knesset said during the session. “We must confront our silence and that of the world in the face of such horrors. No country stood by the Armenians. No one cared about the genocide in Rwanda,” Shaked added.

Meretz deputy Zehava Gal-On said during the session that the Knesset should endorse recognizing the “Armenian genocide” despite efforts to reconcile with Turkey. Deputies accepted a proposal to prepare a law with respect to the killings of Armenians in 1915. One commission of the Knesset was tasked with drafting the law.

The session on the “Armenian genocide” came a day after Israeli and Turkish delegations tried to reach a deal on compensation to victims of the Mavi Marmara incident.

Eight Turks and one Turkish American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara while stopping an international aid flotilla trying to breach a blockade of the Gaza Strip. The incident increased tensions between the once close allies and led to a break in relations.

Last month, US President Barack Obama brokered a rapprochement between the two countries, both of which Washington regards as strategic partners in the turbulent Middle East. Israel offered an apology and compensation for the May 31, 2010 raid, and the Turkish and Israeli leaders agreed to try to normalize their relationship.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has since warned, however, that the restoration of full-fledged diplomatic ties would come only after compensation is paid to the surviving victims of the flotilla raids and the relatives of the dead, and would be dependent on Israel ending all commercial restrictions on the Palestinians.

However, while efforts to restore ties between the two former allies have accelerated, the Israeli parliament began discussing the Armenian “genocide,” a day before the so-called Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

“Members of Knesset will have to decide between the benefits of the strategic relationship with Turkey and the moral duty not to ignore the Armenian genocide that occurred in the last century,” deputy Reuven Rivlin, a former Knesset speaker, told a delegation from Turkey at the Knesset on Monday, Haaretz reported.

Armenia, backed by many historians and parliaments in several countries, says about 1.5 million Armenians were killed in what is now eastern Turkey during World War I in a deliberate policy of genocide ordered by the Ottoman government. The Ottoman Empire dissolved after the end of the war, but successive Turkish governments and the vast majority of Turks take the charge of genocide as a direct insult to national pride. Ankara argues there was a heavy loss of life on both sides during fighting in the area.

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