Israel says Chilean president’s snub to new envoy ‘seriously damages relations’

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned the Chilean leadership after the South American president suspended acceptance of credentials from Israel’s new ambassador due to increased military activity in the West Bank.

“Israel views Chile’s puzzling and unprecedented behavior severely. This seriously damages relations between the two countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

He said Chile’s ambassador to Israel was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Sunday for a smear, “where Israel’s response will be made clear to the ambassador.”

Israeli Ambassador Gil Artzyeli visited government offices in Chile’s capital Santiago on Thursday to present his credentials to President Gabriel Boric and other diplomats, but was stopped short.

A diplomatic official familiar with the incident who was not authorized to speak officially told The Associated Press that Artzyeli “was already there, waiting to come into the room, when the foreign minister approached him and said that due to an incident that took place… with the death of a 17-year-old boy during an Israeli army operation, the president decided in this context to postpone the presentation of credentials.

No date has yet been set for the presentation of the credentials, the source said.

Israeli forces shot and killed Odai Salah on Thursday in the West Bank, Palestinian officials said. The Israeli army said it opened fire on suspects who threw explosives at soldiers patrolling the hometown of two Palestinian gunmen who killed an Israeli officer in a shootout on Wednesday.

After the incident sparked controversy in Chile, Artzyeli was summoned to the Chilean Foreign Ministry on Thursday afternoon.

“They apologized to me and to the State of Israel many times,” Artzyeli told reporters after a meeting with Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Ximena Fuentes. “It was not a very comfortable incident this morning, but being Israeli and Jewish, my people have been through worse things in the last four thousand years. And we will overcome this morning’s incident for the good of Chile, for the good of Israel and for our bilateral relations.

A source quoted by the Walla news site denied that Chile had apologized for postponing the ceremony, saying the apology was only for not informing Artzyeli in advance.

In Chile, a group of 21 lawmakers criticized Boric for what they called a “snub” of “unprecedented” proportions.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric in Punta Arenas, Chile, Sunday, September 4, 2022 (AP Photo/Andres Poblete)

“President Boric is boycotting bilateral relations, improvising a decision while the ambassador was in the Foreign Ministry,” the lawmakers who are part of a Chile-Israel interparliamentary group said in a letter Friday. “Situations like these demonstrate a deep disregard for the more than 70 years of friendship between Chile and Israel.”

Several opposition lawmakers also independently criticized Boric for the move.

Boric, on the left, has frequently spoken out against Israel and its military operations. In a television interview last year, Boric, who became Chile’s president in March, was asked if he stood by his previously stated view that Israel is a “genocidal and murderous” state. “I stand by it,” he replied.

In 2019, the Jewish community in Chile sent Boric a jar of honey to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Boric replied on Twitter: “I appreciate the gesture but they could start by asking Israel to return the illegally occupied Palestinian territory.”

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