ANKARA — A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Friday that if Israel voted in favor of recognizing the Armenian Genocide it would harm itself.
“The fact that Israel is placing the events of 1915 at the same level as the Holocaust hurts Israel first,” Erdogan’s spokesman Hami Aksoy said.
“The events of 1915 are not a political issue but historical and legal,” Aksoy said, without commenting further.
Amid the ongoing diplomatic spat between Israel and Turkey, Israel’s parliament voted on Wednesday to hold a debate on recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
Only a spattering of Knesset members were present at the discussion, which supported a motion put forward by left-wing Meretz party chief Tamar Zandberg 16-0.
“Time and again this issue has fallen victim to political disputes. Not recognizing the Armenian genocide is a moral stain on Israel,” Zandberg said.
Meretz has since 1989 tried to approve recognizing the century-old Turkish mass killings of Armenians beginning in 1915 as a Genocide, with Israeli governments rejecting the efforts because of ties with Turkey.
A plenary discussion “would be a significant measure to the moral message Israel is sending the entire world”, Zandberg said.
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.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who has long spoken out in favor of recognition, again expressed support for the measure. But he also voiced discomfort with public calls to recognize the genocide merely to irk Turkey and its bellicose leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Since when does Ankara tug at the strings of my morality?” he asked, upon introducing the motion by Meretz party leader Zandberg.
“The Israeli Knesset should recognize the Armenian genocide because it is the right thing to do, the just thing to do,” Edelstein added.
She derided efforts to use the recognition as a jab at Erdogan, saying “the disasters of another nation are not a political playing card.”
Israel’s refusal thus far to formally recognize the Armenian slaughter as genocide is based on geopolitical and strategic considerations, primary among them its relations with Turkey. The United States has similarly avoided recognition of the mass killings over fears of angering Turkey.