Just yesterday, I wrote about the political folly of allowing the vote on the term genocide to take place in the House Foreign Affairs committee. The vote took place and narrowly passed, 23-22, and now is eligible to face a vote in the entire house. The resolution will not reach a house vote, though, as the Administration strongly opposes the resolution. The opposition from the White House makes the resolution a striking déjà vu; the same issue was approached in 2007 and shot down by the White House for political reasons. President Obama and Sec. of State Clinton both supported the utilization of the term genocide while in Congress and on the campaign trail. Their change of heart on the matter shows how politicized the Armenian vote is.
Interestingly, the difference between the 2007 and 2010 Armenian vote was the support of the Israeli lobby. In 2007, the lobby was an active opponent of the bill and worked hard to kill the bill – citing fears that such a bill would harm US-Turkish relations and Israeli-Turkish relations. Since the 2008 war in Gaza, tensions between Ankara and Tel Aviv have been weakened because of Turkish condemnation of Israeli policy and Israel’s lame – and stupid – attempt to get even.
[tweetmeme] According to the JTA, the disagreements between Turkey and Israel were significant enough for the Israeli lobby in the US to change their stance on the genocide bill. While the lobby probably did not actively support the bill, it certainly did nothing to oppose it:
In the past, the pro-Israel community has lobbied hard against previous attempts to pass similar resolutions, citing warnings from Turkish officials that it could harm the alliance not only with the United States but with Israel — although Israel has always tried to avoid mentioning the World War I-era genocide.
In the last year or so, however, officials of American pro-Israel groups have said that while they will not support new resolutions, they will no longer oppose them, citing Turkey’s heightened rhetorical attacks on Israel and a flourishing of outright anti-Semitism the government has done little to stem.
That has lifted the fetters for lawmakers like Berman, who had been loath to abet in the denial of a genocide; Berman and a host of other members of the House’s unofficial Jewish caucus have signed on as co-sponsors.
It is possible that this was not meant to be a message to Turkey, but if it was intended to warn Ankara about the influence of Israel, it was effective. Israel itself has avoided using the term genocide and relations between France and Turkey cooled when France passed a similar resolution. Thus, while the Israel lobby passivity in the vote was not a major factor (the resolution passed by 1) it did open the door to the possibility of US recognition of genocide. It is unlikely that the committee would have passed the vote had the lobby been against it, therefore demonstrating the Jewish influence in Washington. As MJ Rosenthal concludes:
That battle is now being carried to Washington. The Israelis are trying to teach the Turks a lesson. If the Armenian resolution passes the House, it will not be for purely compassionate reasons, but rather, to send a message to Turkey: if you mess with Israel, its lobby will make Turkey pay a price in Washington.
Photo from BBC.