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Armenian Genocide Resolution On Israeli Parliament Agenda

Israel's Knesset is again debating the World War I-era mass killings.
Israel's Knesset is again debating the World War I-era mass killings.
JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel's parliament has agreed to again consider a draft resolution recognizing the World War I-era mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The Knesset decided by 12 votes to eight, with one abstention, that one of its standing committees will discuss the resolution and determine whether it should be put to a full parliament vote.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was among those who voted for the decision. A representative of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also backed a parliament debate on the resolution, which was drafted by Haim Oron, the leader of the left-wing opposition Meretz party.

Most of the lawmakers voting against the resolution's inclusion on the parliament agenda were from the Yisrael Beiteinu party, a junior partner in Netanyahu's coalition government that mainly represents Jewish immigrants from Soviet republics, Azerbaijan in particular. One of them, the Baku-born Yosef Shagal, said Israel should not pass judgment on what he described as a dispute between Turkey and Armenia.

It is not yet clear which Knesset committee will pick up the measure. Oron wants it to be debated by the Education Committee, having failed to push similar resolutions through the Foreign Affairs and Defense committees in 2009 and 2008. Both Rivlin and Netanyahu's representative said that the Defense Committee should again deal with the issue.

The Defense Committee did not even vote on the Armenian genocide resolutions in the past, despite clearance from the Knesset. It thus highlighted successive Israeli governments' reluctance to antagonize Turkey, a rare Muslim partner of Israel.

The Netanyahu government did not back a parliament debate on Armenian genocide recognition on the previous occasion, in May 2009. The apparent shift in its position on the highly sensitive issue comes amid a worsening of Turkish-Israeli relations in recent months.

Twenty countries have recognized the mass killings of Armenians from 1915-1918 as a genocide. Turkey rejects the term.