The Israeli government Sunday postponed discussing a bill to recognize the 1915 Armenian incident as genocide until after June 24, over concerns that it may benefit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's campaign in the upcoming elections.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' recommendation to postpone debate on a law recognizing the Armenian genocide until after the Turkish elections on June 24, 2018, as the debate on its original schedule might serve the election campaign of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.
Israel often uses the Armenian genocide bill as a bargaining chip whenever its relations with Turkey deteriorate. The call for recognition of Armenian claims on the 1915 events and supporting an independent Kurdish state came to the agenda of Israeli politicians and media last year in July, following Turkey's harsh reaction to the violations and limitation of Muslims in Masjid-al Aqsa.
In an editorial on one of Israel's biggest newspapers, the right-wing Jerusalem Post, it was claimed that it is mandatory for Israel to support a Kurdish state against Turkey. Israeli opposition parties, such as Yesh Atid, also supported these statements by calling on the government for a more aggressive attitude against Turkey.
The relations between the two countries were strained again after Turkey expelled Israel's Ambassador to Ankara Eitan Na'eh in response to the Israeli forces' indiscriminate killings in Gaza.
In May, following the U.S.'s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Palestinians demonstrated to protest the move and commemorate the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment in the region, known as the "Nakba" by Palestinians. However, Israeli forces responded to the demonstration with brutal force that has killed as many as 119 Palestinians so far.
Turkey reacted with several public protests to the Israeli violence, some of which were staged in front of the U.S. and Israeli embassies and consulates. It also observed an official three days of mourning last month. Several nongovernmental organizations organized prayers and parades to commemorate the victims.
President Erdoğan said Israel has committed genocide, and Turkey asked Israel's ambassador to Ankara to leave the country. Israel subsequently asked Turkey's consul general in Jerusalem to leave the country in a tit-for-tat move.
Turkey and Israel restored diplomatic relations less than two years ago after six years of a diplomatic freeze following the killing of nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ferry by Israeli forces in 2010.
The Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people, a number equals to almost all Ottoman Armenians according to official records from that era, were killed during World War I as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart. Almost 30 countries to date have 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.