Israel parliament to discuss 'Armenian genocide' amid Turkey tensions

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday approved a motion to hold a plenary debate on "recognising the Armenian genocide", as relations between the Jewish state and Turkey continue their downward spiral.

While such a motion would not be considered an Israeli government move, it could worsen already tense ties with Turkey, which has accused Israel of Nazism over its killing of some 60 Palestinians on the Gaza border.

Ahead of the vote on holding the discussion, Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing opposition Meretz party said the timing of her motion had nothing to do with the rise in tensions with Turkey.

"Time and again this issue has fallen victim to political disputes. Not recognising the Armenian genocide is a moral stain on Israel," she said.

A plenary discussion "would be a significant measure to the moral message Israel is sending the entire world", Zandberg said.

The motion was approved 16-0, although a date for the plenary discussion has yet to be set.

Meretz has since 1989 tried to approve recognising 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.

Relations collapsed over the deadly storming of a Gaza-bound Turkish air ship by Israeli commandos in 2010, until a 2016 agreement normalised ties.

Violence on the Gaza border that resulted in the deaths of 60 Palestinians last week and the transfer of the US embassy to the disputed city of Jerusalem prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lash out at Israel.

He accused Israel of "state terror" and "genocide".

Erdogan also chaired a summit of Muslim leaders at which he compared Israel's actions to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in the Holocaust during World War II.

Ankara recalled its ambassador to Israel before expelling the Israel envoy and consul general, with Israel ordering 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.

Turkey strongly denies the genocide charge.

It 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.