Garbis: Armenians React to ‘Failing’ Turkish-Israeli Relations

With recent news reports about renewed efforts to have official resolutions recognizing the genocide passed by the U.S. Congress—with the support of Jewish interest groups—and even in the Knesset, Yerevan Armenians are trying to make sense of the changing political tide in the region.

One school of thought is that in both U.S. and Israeli lawmaking bodies, the resolution will be put to a vote will not pass—although by a slim margin in an attempt to scare Turkey. As a result, economic and diplomatic ties will begin to strengthen once again.

On the surface this seems unlikely, however, given Ankara’s recent efforts to step up its relations with Tehran. On June 9, Turkey refused to vote in favor of UN-sponsored sanctions against Iran for pursuing its nuclear program. The refusal slighted the U.S., yet diplomatic relations between the two countries remain largely unaffected.

“The Jews have their own interests to look after first of all,” said Shahan Ounjian of Beirut, Lebanon, who is the proprietor of a Yerevan tavern called Pub Che. “When did the Armenians ever factor into those interests?”

“The Jews are playing cards, and now they’re supposedly trying to play the Armenian hand by using genocide recognition to get at the Turks,” he added.” But a resolution recognizing the genocide won’t pass [in the Knesset]. Relations between Turkey and Israel won’t worsen.”

Some Armenians believe that although bad blood is circulating as a result of the flotilla incident of May 30, during which nine people were killed when Israeli forces squashed a Turkish-initiated relief effort to help the people of Gaza, long-term Turkish-Israeli relations will not be indefinitely hampered. Rather, the incident was used as a way for Turkey to increase its span of influence in the Middle East.

On June 2, Alexander Iskandaryan, the director of the Caucasus Institute, said in a press conference that the strain in relations between Turkey and Israel was not new, but the level that it has reached was.

“It’s necessary to spoil relations with Israel in order to play a greater role in the Middle East. It fits into the framework of Turkish-Israeli and Turkish-Iraqi relations,” he said.

On June 3, the head of the National New Conservative Movement, Edward Apramyan, was quoted by the Armenian press as stating that the Armenian Genocide recognition issue would only become a “matter of speculation.”

“What’s happening in Turkish-Israeli relations now had been planned two to three years ago,” he said.

The president of the Constitutional Right Union, Hayk Babukhanyan, said in a news conference on June 4 that the situation Turkey has found itself in is a coincidence, and that all those who believe the country has somehow changed as a consequence of the flotilla incident are naive.

“How can Turkey demand an apology from another country, when Turkey itself has been refusing to apologize for its evils in the course of 95 years?” he said. “How can Turkey call another country an aggressor, when it has conquered part of Cyprus? Turkey is guided by double standards, and Europe and the UN accept the rules of this game.”

Christian Garbis

Christian Garbis

Christian Garbis is a writer and experimental filmmaker born and raised in Greater Boston. He received his BA in English and Certificate in Film Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has been contributing to the Armenian Weekly since 1994 and has served as an assistant editor for the paper. He lives in Yerevan with his wife and son and maintains two blogs documenting his impressions: Notes From Hairenik and Footprints Armenia. His first novel is partly based on his experiences in Armenia.

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