JERUSALEM: Israel’s government postponed voting on a bill to recognize the “Armenian genocide” over concern its advancement could benefit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in upcoming poll, an official said Sunday.
A ministerial committee for legislation was due Sunday 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 (Benjamin Netanyahu) to postpone the discussion on recognizing 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 scores of Palestinians on the Gaza border 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 recognized the killings as genocide.
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.
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 recognizing 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 “recognizing the Armenian genocide,” without setting a date.