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Report: Knesset to Recognize Armenian Genocide

Will Israel join France and recognize the Armenian genocide? A Knesset committee discussion may end up doing so.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/26/2011, 6:16 AM

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Flag of Turkey
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Israel is set to join France and recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide, according to a report Sunday on Channel 10 News.

The report said that the Knesset’s Education Committee will hold a discussion on Monday regarding an initiative presented by MKs Aryeh Eldad (National Union) and Zehava Gal-on (Meretz) to recognize the Armenian genocide.

According to the report, the committee is expected to pass the initiative, though it is still unclear what the exact wording will be and whether the term genocide or disaster will be used.

The Armenian Genocide is also called the Armenian Massacres. Armenians call it the Great Crime. It was the planned and systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire around the time of  World War I through massacres and forced marches. Between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians died during this period, but Turkey refuses to use the word genocide for the tragedy perpetrated on the Armenian minority.

Channel 10 noted that the Prime Minister’s Office is concerned that such a decision might worsen the already tense relations between Israel and Turkey. The report said that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin will be attending Monday’s discussion due to the sensitivity of the issue.

National Security Advisor Major Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror reportedly spoke to Rivlin on Sunday and sought clarifications on how the discussion will be shaped. Amidror also reportedly asked Rivlin to ensure the discussion does not end up causing provocations.

The deterioration in the relationship between Turkey and Israel began when Turkey demanded that Israel apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals onboard the Mavi Marmara in May of 2010. The Turkish citizens were killed when Israeli soldiers who boarded the Gaza-bound ship were forced to open fire after being attacked by the activists on board with clubs and knives.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to apologize for the incident, and Turkey responded by downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel.

Last week, Israel ordered the cancelation of a sale of advanced intelligence equipment to Turkey, worrying that the technology might get into the wrong hands - Iran.

The Armenian issue has been a sensitive one for the Turkish government for many years. Last week, France ratified a bill in parliament, according to which denying the 1915 Armenian genocide would be punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and a 45,000 euro fine. The bill has yet to receive final approval in the senate.

A furious Turkey responded to the French bill by canceling all political, economic and military meetings between representatives of Turkey and France.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also forbade French aircraft from landing in Turkey and said French ships were no longer welcome in Turkey's ports.