Can Israel Recognize Genocide of Armenians in 1915?

By Peter Lyukimson

JERUSALEM (Vestnik Kavkaza) — Presidential officials of Israel and Armenia are having intensive negotiations on recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in 1915. The Armenian side proposed a plan, according to which Israeli Pres. Reuven Rivlin will arrive in Yerevan in April 2015 as one of the world leaders to mark the tragic event. He will declare official recognition of the genocide carried out by the Turkish government in 1915.

A high-ranking official of the Israeli president’s office told Vestnik Kavkaza that the idea was actively promoted by leaders of the Armenian lobby in Israel, although their names have not been given.

Advocates of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide believe that now is the perfect time for its recognition, considering the tense relations of Israel and Turkey and the latest speech of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has recently become the president. Erdogan called the actions of the Israeli army in Gaza a “genocide of the Palestinian people.” Over 2,000 people have died in the Gaza operation. Israel, as is well-known, denies the accusations, reminding that over a third of the people killed were Hamas militants. International experts say that 70-75 percent of people killed were militants. Moreover, Israel insists that peaceful inhabitants of Gaza were only killed because Hamas used them as human shields. In any case, figures of losses in Gaza are incomparable with the number of people killed in the 1915 tragedy.

Rivlin’s figure itself plays an essential part in rumors about official recognition of the Armenian genocide. He has spoken for such recognition several times. At the Lithuanian parliament he said that “the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide of 1915 were the two most tragic events of the 20th century.” Until then, all Israeli politicians were doing their best to evade such comparisons.

Rivlin has emphasized several times that he only wanted historical justice when struggling for recognition of the 1915 genocide and had no intentions of accusing the population of modern Turkey or its government. Rivlin has also said many times that he could not understand why recognition of the Armenian Genocide could have a negative impact on the Jewish state’s relations with Azerbaijan and other Turkic-speaking countries of the post-Soviet space, which have no relations to the events of 1915.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry believes that the president does not have the right to take the initiative, and recognition of the events of 1915 can only happen after talks with Azerbaijan, an important partner of Israel. Israel is confident that Turkey and Azerbaijan know about the negotiations between Rivlin’s supporters and Armenian president Serge Sargisian. However, no reaction from Baku or Ankara has been seen, according to Israeli diplomats.