The Education, Culture and Sports Committee decided to recognize the Armenian genocide on Monday at a meeting initiated by Meretz Chairwoman MK Zehava Galon.
“It is our moral obligation to recognize the holocaust of the Armenian nation,” said the committee’s chairman and Shas MK Yaakov Margi.
The declaration by the committee represents a symbolic and important change in light of Israel’s maintenance hitherto of a policy to refrain from officially recognizing the Armenian genocide in which approximately 1.5 million Armenians were reportedly massacred by Ottoman Turkish forces during World War I.
Israel has previously abstained from recognizing the genocide in order to avoid potential negative repercussions on its relationship with Turkey. Israel signed a reconciliation agreement with the country last month following a strain in bilateral relations since the summer of 2010.
Nevertheless, MK Margi called upon Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to follow through on remarks he made last year at a committee meeting during which he said that he would work to have the Knesset formally recognize the Armenian genocide.
“I will try to promote the issue and I hope that MKs will know the right way to vote at the moment of truth,” Edelstein said in July 2015.
“I visited one of the Armenian memorial sites and it is very hard to ignore what I saw there,” he continued . “I expect that I, and the Knesset, act appropriately so that we can make decisions according to the moral standards of a democratic state.”
MK Galon also lamented Israel’s continued failure to recognize the Armenian genocide.
“Each year we instill false hope in the people sitting here,” said Galon. “It is a disservice to the Knesset to continue going on and on about this issue, year after year, without reaching a decision that the State of Israel and the Knesset recognize the genocide of the Armenian people.”
Georgette Avakian, chairwoman of the Armenian National Committee in Jerusalem, echoed the remarks made by Margi and Galon.
“The Knesset and the president of the State of Israel must recognize the genocide of our people,” she insisted.