ISRAELI CABINET MINISTER URGES FOR ARMENIAN GENOCIDE RECOGNITION
June 14, 2012 - 21:32 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - An Israeli cabinet minister said that the Jewish
state ought to change its policy and recognize the 1915 mass killings
of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as an act of Genocide, Reuters reported.
Gilad Erdan, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
answered a motion in parliament by opposition lawmakers marking the
"I think it is definitely fitting that the Israeli government formally
recognize the Holocaust perpetrated against the Armenian people,"
Erdan, Israel's environmental affairs minister said.
Israel has long avoided acknowledging the mass killings of Armenians
as Genocide, in deference to already strained ties with Turkey which
rejects that view.
Relations with Turkey have been tense since the 2010 killings of nine
Turkish activists in a commando raid on a Gaza-bound ship. Turkey
withdrew its ambassador to Israel after that incident and suspended
Erdan said the Israeli government had not formally changed its
policy on the Armenian's past tragedy, adding: "we should definitely
support holding an open and in depth discussion that analyses the
data and facts."
ISRAEL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALLY CALLS ON KNESSET TO
RECOGNIZE THE ARMENIAN
Issue 10, Spring 2012
G P N O R I G I N A L
B R E AK I N G N E W S
This is the first time a government of Israel has endorsed recognition
An in-depth report and analysis of the political process by GPN
Prepared by Israel W. Charny
Israel's Knesset, Jerusalem
Jerusalem, June 12, 2012
In an historic session of the Israeli Knesset, a wide ranging spectrum of
members of the Knesset, from 7 different political parties, overwhelmingly
endorsed recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The session was led firmly
and inspiringly by the Chair of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin , who himself
spoke with profound feeling of both a Jewish and an Israeli imperative to
extend a long overdue recognition. The issue is a moral one, he emphasized
over and over again.
"We must make our voices heard when other nations are targeted for
destruction," Rivlin stated. "Those who drafted the Final Solution for the
Jews figured the world would be silent as they were when the Armenians were
murdered. The Knesset cannot ignore this episode that is factual. We
cannot forgive nations who ignore our disaster and we cannot ignore the
disaster of other," the Knesset Speaker added.
Although several speakers also reconstructed briefly familiar parts of the
traditional Israeli rhetoric of past years of realpolitik -- e.g., a
chorus line that the government of Turkey in our time is not the Ottoman
Empire that perpetrated the genocide -- the old excuses were as if album
memories of the language that prevailed in the past to explain and justify
Israel's failure, and in all cases but one soon gave way to clear-cut
affirmations of the validity of the Armenian Genocide and support for its
recognition by the current government of Israel.
This reporter had to hold his breath during the beginning of the remarks by
the official spokesman of the government before it became clear how
positive the official position had become for Israel to recognize the
Armenian Genocide at long last.
There was only one notable effort at a counter-proposal by a member of the
Knesset, Robert Tiviaev, who made a disingenuous effort to call for a
commission of historians to research 'what really happened,' and he pledged
that if the commission then concluded that there had been a genocide, "I
will be the first to call for recognition." Knesset Chair Rivlin made
short shrift of the speaker and ruled that there was no point in generating
a formal counter proposal and voting on it because it was obvious from all
the earlier speakers that an overwhelming majority of the Knesset adamantly
confirmed the historical authenticity of the Armenian Genocide.
Rivlin also concluded there was no point in calling for a vote on the
resolution to recognize the genocide since the Knesset already had voted
last year, unanimously, in favor of recognition. It was on the basis of
that vote that the measure had been referred to the Knesset's Education
Committee that held a several hour session in December 2011.
Knesset Chair Rivlin also said that today's session was a confirmation and
extension of the original full Knesset resolution to recognize the
genocide, and he then added forcefully that he now expected a continuation
of deliberations in the Education Committee and a vote on the resolution.
The government was officially represented at the hearing by MK Gilad Erdan,
a member of the National Union Party and currently Minister of
Environmental Affairs, who is described by some press as a close friend of
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was Erdan's role to present the
government's position (that will be described shortly) and to answer
officially on behalf of the government proposed parliamentary motion not
to recognize the genocide.
Erdan said clearly that the government had decided to recognize the
Armenian Genocide, and even used what is normally the code word 'holocaust'
in his remarks to describe what was done to the Armenian people. "I think
it is definitely fitting that the Israeli government formally recognize the
holocaust perpetrated against the Armenian people," Erdan, Israel's
environmental affairs minister said.
For this reporter, Erdan's remarks also reflected the struggles of the
long-since denialist Israeli government that is now coming around
dramatically in a welcome move to recognize the Armenian Genocide. At
first, Erdan made at least one totally inaccurate remark in defense of the
State of Israel when he said, "The State of Israel has never denied the
[Armenian Genocide]. On the contrary, we deplore the genocide." Erdan
also temporized briefly about the meaning of the word 'genocide' when he
noted that, "Not everyone uses the same dictionary when they refer to
'genocide'=85" Yet in the end - though this reporter thought somewhat
nervously and hurriedly - Erdan announced unambiguously that he was
conveying the government's official position. First of all, he said on
behalf of the government that, "One must support full open discussion of
the issue." He also went on to refer to a deeper meaning of the Armenian
Genocide for mankind and to link the meaning of the Armenian Genocide to
the Holocaust of the Jewish people: "The government notes that mankind has
not learned the full meanings of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust."
And finally Erdan announced the Israeli government calls for formal
recognition of the Armenian Genocide which, as noted earlier, Erdan now
characterized with the word 'holocaust:'
GPN Explanation and Analysis
Unlike the procedure in the US Congress, the Israel legislative sequence
calls first for a vote in the plenum, and given a positive vote then the
proposed resolution is referred for a hearing in one of the Knesset
committees. Now, given a further positive vote in the committee, the
measure returns once again to the plenum for three readings and a vote on
each reading. At the successful conclusion of this process, the resolution
becomes a legal decision of the Knesset.
In the case of the bill to recognize the Armenian Genocide, it is known
that if the government maneuvers to send the bill to the secretive
Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security, the bill will most likely be
killed - and no information on who said what and 'who done it' may ever be
forthcoming. When the present resolution was sent last Fall to the
Education Committee, whose hearings are public, it was a major step toward
a possible recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The December hearing in
the Education Committee was widely hailed in Israel as the first-ever
extended consideration of the genocide in Israel's legislature.
However - a very big however - as reported by GPN at the time, after
several hours of a rich and quite moving session, the Chair of the
Education Committee at the time, Alex Miller, a member of Knesset for the
Yisrael Beitenu Party that is headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
(the Foreign Ministry continued in its traditional opposition to recognize
the genocide) as if broke the spell of the session that overall would
clearly have produced a vote for recognition, and announced pre-emptively
that the session was over. Bang! Miller then promised that there would be
a continuation session in the future, but in fact has never made a move to
schedule such a session, and GPN has learned privately over these months
from the leaders of the Armenian community in Israel that Miller has said
that he refuses to convene such a session.
It now remains to be seen whether the government will act on its newly
announced support of the recognition by working to have the Knesset send
the measure once again to the Education Committee for a continuation of the
hearing - there will be a new Chair of the Education Committee in the
What is clear is that Knesset Chair Reuven Rivlin will do everything in his
power in the behind-the-scene decision-making process to have the bill
referred back to the Education Committee, but we do not know how to
evaluate the range of his influence.
If the government arranges for the bill to go to the secretive committee
where it is likely to be killed or in any other way stops the unfolding of
the full process, we will know that the statement made by the government's
spokesman on June 12 was still another maneuver in the history of Israeli
realpolitik - notwithstanding the fact the even this statement itself
represents a major precedent in the tortured process that has taken place
in Israel over so many years.
One puzzle for this reporter in the day following the hearing is that so
much of the press in Israel and in the U.S. too failed to report loudly and
clearly what for us is the very big news - and therefore GPN's headline.
The Government of Israel did state officially that it supports
recognition. Wow. As I reviewed press today, I discovered to my amazement
that most missed the point. Haaretz in Hebrew didn't even report the story
of the hearing. The English edition of Haaretz this morning featured the
hearing as its lead Page One story but still didn't convey the main point
of the victory. Neither did the Jerusalem Post or the Los Angeles Times in
their fairly full stories. One minor new service in israel, Arutz Sheva,
did publish a small statement that the Minister Erdan "spoke for the
government..." and quoted him saying in the first person (which could be
one source of the confusion that has been showing up as to who he
represented), "I believe it would be appropriate for the government to
acknowledge the Armenian Genocide." In Istanbul, the newspaper Today's
Zaman got it more correctly than some of the major Israeli papers and
quoted the minister basically correctly, BUT added that he said Israel's
government had not changed its policy, and in general erred very badly in
saying the hearing was initiated in response to this minister's remark
rather than that the minister came as the official government
representative to the hearing initiated by the Knesset. The one source we
have found so far that got it really right was the Chicago Tribune which
clearly credited Erdan as speaking for the government.
Why so much clouding of information? At the moment GPN's analysis is that it's
a whopper of a correction for Israel to make after so many years and its
hard to believe. As we reported, even the minister seemed nervously
In spite of the clear risks of being very wrong, GPN's editor-reporter
now predicts that this bill to recognize the Armenian Genocide will go the
full route and will be approved by the Israeli Knesset.
(keep our fingers crossed)
BAKU REJECTS SNIPER WITHDRAWAL
Thursday, June 14th, 2012
Azeri foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov (right) with OSCE chairman
Eamon Gilmore in Baku
BAKU (RFE/RL)-Azerbaijan effectively rejected on Thursday renewed
international calls for the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
to unconditionally withdraw snipers from "the line of contact" and
agree to joint investigations of growing truce violations there.
Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, the chairman-in-office of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, voiced such calls
when visited Yerevan and Baku this week. He reportedly insisted on
the need for a concrete mechanism for such investigations after talks
with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on Thursday.
News reports quoted Mammadyarov as saying that Baku agrees with the
idea, advanced by international mediators, in principle. "But that
mechanism could work only when Armenian troops start withdrawing from
Azerbaijan's occupied territories," he said, according to the APA
news agency. "Only in that case can the mechanism be put into action."
"If we start applying that mechanism now, that will only mean
reinforcing the status quo, which is unacceptable," Mammadyarov told
a joint news conference with Gilmore.
"If Armenia does not want its soldiers to die, then it must liberate
Azerbaijan's lands. If this happens, there will be no need for
snipers," added the Azerbaijani foreign minister.
The Armenian side has voiced support for both sniper withdrawal and
joint investigations. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian reaffirmed
this stance after his meeting with Gilmore on Tuesday.
Government Plans Heavier Use Of Armenian Lake Waters
Citing the need to support a key agricultural region, the Armenian
government has announced controversial plans to nearly double the use
of water from the ecologically vital Lake Sevan for irrigation
purposes this year.
Environmentalists warned on Friday that this could reverse a
decade-long rise in Sevan's water level seen as critical for saving
its endangered ecosystem.
The Hrazdan river flowing out of the mountainous lake has for decades
supplied irrigation water to the fruit-growing Ararat Valley through a
network of canals mostly built in Soviet times. This was a key reason
for a drastic shrinkage of Armenia's main water reservoir that had
begun in the 1950s.
The lake's level has soared by at least three meters over the past
decade thanks two underground tunnels pumping water from mountain
rivers. The government's decision to cut back on the use of Sevan's
water for power generation and irrigation has also been a major
factor. An Armenian law on Sevan limits the annual volume of that
water at 170 million cubic meters.
The government approved on Thursday a package of draft amendments to
the law which would raise that ceiling to 320 million cubic
meters. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said this is needed for
offsetting a significant drop in summer precipitation predicted by the
State Committee on Water Resources.
`If we want to ensure normal supplies of irrigation water to the
Ararat Valley we will have to receive the National Assembly's
permission and take an additional 150 million cubic meters of water
from Lake Sevan to avoid problems in agriculture,' Sarkisian told a
weekly cabinet meeting.
Environmental activists and experts dismissed that explanation. Hakob
Sanasarian of the Union of Greens, a non-governmental organization,
claimed that the government simply wants to save villas, resorts and
other expensive properties built along the Sevan coastline from being
submerged by the rising water level.
`There is politics behind the decision,' Sanasarian told RFE/RL's
Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). `They could have waited until August
or at least the end of July to see if the amount of precipitation has
drastically decreased before making the decision.'
`A drought is not anticipated,' insisted Aram Gabrielian, an expert on
climate change coordinating a United Nations project in Armenia. `They
say that [artificial] water reservoirs are now half full. But they
must always be half full.'
Some villagers in the Ararat Valley were likewise skeptical that the
government initiative is designed to support them. `They let out water
not for the villagers,' said one farmer in the village of
Dashtavan. `They just don't want their cottages to be flooded. They
are also doing that to sell more electricity.'
`Even if you pump one billion cubic meters of water from Sevan there
will be no water here without the construction of a dam,' another
villager told RFE/RL's Armenian service.
Gabrielian stressed that Sevan's continued enlargement is essential
for Armenia. The picturesque lake has a total area of almost 1,000
Under the government's long-term rehabilitation program for Sevan, the
level is to rise by another 3.5 meters by 2029. It envisages that
further growth will be less drastic and average roughly 20 centimeters
per annum. Sarkisian and other officials did not specify whether the
heavier use of the lake's waters would affect these targets.
EXPLOSION ON CONSTRUCTION SITE OF COVERED MARKET IN
Thursday, June 14, 13:54
Explosion broke out on the construction site of the Covered Market
in Yerevan overnight, a Yerevan-based daily Haykakan Zhamanak writes.
The paper writes that the explosion might be connected with
construction and demolition process. "They dig a huge hole there and
there could be need for explosion as well," the paper writes. In
the meanwhile the joint commission set up by the Municipality of
Yerevan and the Culture Ministry has given a resolution on the partial
demolition of the Covered Market's arch roof on May 27. Late in the
evening on May 27 the major arcs and related structures of the covered
market collapsed following demolition of some inter-storey coverage.
Although the construction was suspended, liquidation of debris has
even deteriorated the situation.
To note, the Covered Market is included in the list of the historical
monuments of Yerevan. It was built in 1952 by Armenian architect
Grigory Aghababyan's project and has been considered one of the symbols
of the Armenian capital since then. Earlier the mass media reported
that Armenian MP Samvel Alexanyan had bought the Covered Market from
the Leader of Prosperous Armenia Party Gagik Tsarukyan and was going
to turn it into a Yerevan City supermarket.