Awkward! Netanyahu roasts Erdogan for denying Armenian genocide… which Israel doesn’t recognize

26 Sep, 2019

Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest denouncement of Recep Tayyip Erdogan for denying the Armenian genocide would have sounded more sincere if he hadn’t personally blocked an attempt to recognize it as such last year.

There is no love lost between the leaders of Israel and Turkey, who have spent years publicly accusing each other of dictatorial and murderous policies. The latest barb from Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed that President Erdogan “denies the terrible slaughter of the Armenian people” and thus “shouldn’t preach to Israel.”

Invoking the mass murder of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire would have sounded more appropriate if Israel actually recognized it as genocide, some commenters were quick to point out.

Israel’s official position on the genocide is the same as the country’s stance on its presumed nuclear arsenal: to neither deny nor acknowledge. Historically, this position was taken so as not to alienate Turkey, which was one of few nations in the Middle East that was friendly with Israel and offered lucrative trade opportunities for its arms producers.

While the countries’ relationship under Netanyahu and Erdogan has soured, affecting both security cooperation and trade, Israel’s position has never changed. Turkey’s role as a key buyer of arms and a strategically placed ally was replaced by Azerbaijan in the past decade. A neighbor of Israel’s arch-nemesis Iran, Azerbaijan is locked in a bitter cold war with Armenia, having lost a significant part of its territory to Armenian-backed separatists. The nation also has close ties with Turkey.

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It’s not clear how big of a consideration Azerbaijan was when Netanyahu personally intervened to block an attempt to recognize the Armenian genocide last year. His official explanation was that a debate on such a move would mobilize Turkish nationalists and help Erdogan in an upcoming election.

Netanyahu’s statement was apparently a response to Erdogan’s reference to Israel’s policies during his speech at the UN General Assembly earlier this week. The Turkish president even used some visual props to make his point, which incidentally is Netanyahu’s trademark approach.

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