Israel freezes Armenian genocide bill 'until after Turkey elections'

Israel freezes Armenian genocide bill 'until after Turkey elections'
Israel paused its work on the Armenian genocide bill until after Turkey's elections, an official said on Sunday.
3 min read
03 June, 2018
The bill was paused to prevent Erdogan from benefiting from it during the elections [Getty]
Israel postponed voting on a bill to recognise the "Armenian genocide" over concern its advancement could benefit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in upcoming poll, an official said on Sunday.

A ministerial committee for legislation was due to hold a preliminary vote on the bill, presented by members of the coalition and opposition and tabled after the latest diplomatic confrontation with Turkey over the conflict with the Palestinians.

"The foreign ministry advised Prime Minister (Binyamin Netanyahu) to postpone the discussion on recognising the Armenian genocide until after the elections in Turkey, since such a discussion is liable to aid Erdogan in the elections," ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

"The prime minister accepted the foreign ministry's recommendation," Nahshon added in a statement.

Turkey is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, with Erdogan seeking a new mandate.

Ties between Israel and Turkey took a turn for the worse in May when Israeli troops shot dead more than 100 Palestinians on the Gaza border during protests and Washington moved its embassy to Jerusalem.

Erdogan called Israel a "terror state" and compared its actions against the Palestinians in Gaza to the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

He recalled his ambassador to Israel and expelled the Israel envoy and consul general, while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave.

The Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed during World War I as the Ottoman empire was falling apart, with almost 30 countries to date having recognised the killings as genocide.

But Turkey strongly denies the genocide charge.

Ankara argues that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

Last week, Turkey said Israel would only harm itself if it recognised the Armenian genocide because to do so would undermine the special status of the Holocaust.

"We think that Israel putting the events of 1915 on the same level as the Holocaust is harming itself first and foremost," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters in Ankara.

MP Itzik Shmuli from the opposition's Zionist Union slammed the foreign ministry's explanation on the need to delay the bill as "false and ridiculous".

"If foreign ministries in the world would act in such a cowardly and utilitarian manner on recognising the Holocaust, where would we be today?" he wrote on Twitter.

In a separate parliamentary initiative at the end of May, lawmakers approved holding a plenary debate on "recognising the Armenian genocide," without setting a date.

'War crimes'

Meanwhile, Israel itself is facing accusations of war crimes amid widespread international condemnation after killing a young female volunteer medic along the border in southern Gaza.

Razan al-Najjar, 21, a volunteer with the Gaza health ministry, was fatally shot in the chest near Khan Younis on Friday.

The UN envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a tweet that "Medical workers are #NotATarget!" and that "Israel needs to calibrate its use of force and Hamas need to prevent incidents at the fence.”

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society said Najjar was shot "as she was attempting to provide first aid to an injured protester", with three other first responders also hit by live fire on Friday.

"Shooting at medical personnel is a war crime under the Geneva conventions," the PMRC said in a statement, demanding "an immediate international response to Israeli humanitarian law violations in Gaza".

Najjar's death brings the toll of Gazans killed by Israeli fire since the end of March to 123.