SANTIAGO, Chile — President Gabriel Boric of Chile, whose country has the largest Palestinian population outside of the Middle East, said Wednesday that he planned to open an embassy “in Palestine.”
The announcement by the leftist president, who began his four-year term in March 2022, came at a Christmas ceremony for Chile’s Palestinian community, estimated to be more than 300,000 strong.
“One of the decisions we have taken as a government, I think we have not yet made it public… is that we will raise the level of our official representation in Palestine,” Boric said. “We will open an embassy under our government.”
Chile opened a representative office to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in 1998, and in 2011 recognized Palestine as a state, supporting its entrance to UNESCO.
Though dozens of countries have representative offices in the West Bank, few have formal embassies, among them Venezuela, Tunisia and Oman.
As a lawmaker, Boric supported a bill proposing to boycott Israeli goods from the Golan Heights, West Bank settlements and areas of Jerusalem that were seized from Jordan in the Six Day War in 1967. He has a tense relationship with Chile’s 18,000 Jews and has encouraged them to lobby for Israeli territorial concessions.
Earlier this year, Boric accepted the credentials of Israeli Ambassador Gil Artzyeli, two weeks after snubbing the envoy amid increased Israeli military activity in the West Bank.
Artzyeli had arrived at the Presidential Palace in Santiago earlier in September for the formality but was turned away by the Chilean government due to the killing of a 17-year-old Palestinian the night before, sparking a diplomatic spat.
The Foreign Ministry fiercely condemned Boric’s action, charging that it “seriously harms the relations” between the two countries, and summoned Chile’s ambassador to Israel for a dressing down. After the incident sparked controversy within Chile, Artzyeli was summoned to the Chilean Foreign Ministry, where he received an apology.
Boric eventually greeted Artzyeli on October 1.
The left-wing Boric won Chile’s presidency in a landslide victory last year, unnerving the country’s Jewish community.
Palestinians began immigrating to Chile in large numbers during the 20th century when the area was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
The large community is prominent in Chile’s textile industry and is also involved in the country’s politics.