Israel raps Chilean president for Temple Mount visit with Palestinian officials

Foreign Ministry says tour of Jerusalem holy site violated diplomatic procedures, undermines Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera visits at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, June 25, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera visits at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, June 25, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday censured the Chilean government after President Sebastian Pinera toured the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City with senior Palestinian officials, a move that Israel said undermined its sovereignty over the eastern part of the capital city.

Pinera’s visit to the Temple Mount on Tuesday was in violation of diplomatic procedures and a previous agreement between the two countries, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

The Temple Mount is in East Jerusalem, which Israel says is part of its undivided capital and which the Palestinians claim as part of their future state. Israel’s sovereignty over the eastern half of the city is not recognized internationally.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said the reprimand came at the direction of Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

“The Foreign Ministry views any infringement of Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount as serious and a violation of clear procedures,” the ministry said. “We must distinguish between absolute freedom of worship… and the preservation of our sovereignty over the Temple Mount.”

There was no immediate response from Santiago.

Pinera arrived on Tuesday for an official three-day official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

He visited the Temple Mount Tuesday with Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadami and other senior officials, according to Hebrew-language media.

The Chilean leader and his wife also visited the Western Wall holy site, where he offered a prayers for peace, and placed prayers in the wall from students at a Chilean-Jewish school.

He also met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and visited holy sites in the West Bank city.

The visit by the center-right leader came after Pinera and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Brazil during the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in early January.

Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera, center in blue shirt, visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem on June 24, 2019, with his wife and a delegation as part of a state visit to Israel. (Courtesy Western Wall Heritage Foundation)

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it. Most of the international community has never recognized the annexation, though US President Donald Trump’s administration became the first to do so in 2017.

Several dignitaries from the US and other friendly countries have visited the Western Wall with Israeli officials in recent years, which has been held up in Jerusalem as a sign of growing international recognition of Israel’s position.

However, Israeli officials generally avoid accompanying officials to the Temple Mount for fear of upending the sensitive status quo at the flashpoint holy site.

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