IsraCast, Israel
Dec 30 2011

Israel, Turkey & Armenian Dilemma

Friday, December 30, 2011

Israel Ponders Recognition Of Armenian Massacre And Her Strategic Need
To Improve Strained Relations With Turkey
Issue Remains Open After Prime Minister Netanyahu & Foreign Minister
Lieberman Appeal To Knesset Education Committee Not To Conduct Session

IsraCast Assessment: Israel Must Seek Balance Between Avoiding Further
Deterioration With Turkey While Not Dodging Her Moral Obligation

Israel's government and her Parliament are at odds over whether the
Jewish state should officially recognize Turkey's responsibility for
the massacre of some one and a half million Armenians in 1915. In
spite of appeals by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Knesset's Education Committee
discussed the issue but stopped short of voting on recognition.
IsraCast analyst David Essing is of the view that with the Iranian
nuclear crisis coming to a head in 2012, it is crucial that Israel
will not cause any further deterioration in the already strained
relations with Turkey.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has clashed with Prime Minister
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman over a parliamentary
discussion of the massacre of one and half million Armenians by the
Ottoman Empire, the forerunner of modern Turkey. Netanyahu appealed to
Rivlin: 'Don't do it!' The Speaker replied that the issue had arisen
in the Knesset not because of the current tension between Jerusalem
and Ankara. Nor was it an attempt by Israel's parliament to settle the
score with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan who has jettisoned Turkey's
long time alliance with Israel and who castigates the Jewish state at
every opportunity. Rivlin went on to say that the State of Israel,
after the Holocaust of six million Jews, was duty bound to discuss the
question of what had befallen the Armenians, no matter how important
the government's diplomatic needs. And he added: 'The Knesset
discussion did not relate to the present government of Turkey or the
current political situation'.

However the problem is that the Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923,
has catagorically rejected responsibility for the massacre of the
Armenians. Today in Turkey it is illegal to contend that Ottoman
Empire carried out a genocide of the Armenians. Twenty- one counries
including Canada, Italy, Russia, and Sweden have officially recognized
the Aremnian genocide. U.S. President Barack Obama has not referred to
it as genocide preferring to use the Armenian term Meds Yeghern. He
has described it as one of the worst atrocities of the twentieth
century and in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. Britain and
Australia have yet to officially recognize it. Recently, the lower
house of the French parliament passed a bill making it a crime to deny
the genocide of the Armenians punishable by a fine of 45,000 Euros and
one year in jail. It must also be approved by the French Senate in
order to become law.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan reacted angrily by recalling his
ambassador to Paris and warning of 'grave political and economic
consequences'. Erdogan also accused France of carrying out a genocide
of the Algerians during their war of liberation from 1954 to 1962.
Paris has been pressing Ankara to recognize its historic past in the
same manner that France has belatedly recognized that its own Vichy
government collaborated with Nazi Germany in the deporting of French
Jews to German concentration camps. But there are other international
cases as well. At the end of the nineteenth century, not long before
the Armenian massacre, King Leopold of Belgium carried out a
monsterous genocide in the Congo that murdered tens of millions of

As documented by Harvard historian Caroline Elkins in her book
'Imperial Reckoning', the British reportedly massacred hundreds of
thousands of Kikuyu men, women and children during the Mau Mau
uprising in the fifties. Britain has refused to pay reparations
contending that the British government is no longer responsible for
what transpired during the colonial period. The point is should
Israel, in its unique role as representing the Jewish Holocaust, now
single out Turkey. Such an act could dash any hope of trying to repair
the strained relations between the countries; it could turn all
Turkish public opinion against the Jewish state and perhaps even make
Turkey a mortal enemy at a time that the Arab Spring may be spawning
even more dangerous threats.

Even the almighty United States of America has refrained from
officially recognizing the Armenian genocide due to its strategic
interests in the Middle East. And it's not as if, the massacre was
ongoing like the recent blood-bath in Darfur that murdered up to
500,000, and where Israel did play a clandestine role in aiding the
Republic of South Sudan in achieving independence. By officially
joining the declarative campaign against Turkey, Israel would be
burning all her bridges with the former ally. Without going into
detail, it could even cost Israeli lives in the future. For example,
the U.S. and NATO are now building a-state-of- the- art anti-ballistic
missile system in Turkey. This missile defense is aimed at
intercepting ballistic missiles launched by Iran. Does Israel not have
a vital interest in doing everything possible to prevent any
disruption to this major bastion against Iran's missile and nuclear
weapon capability?

David Essing