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Israel says Chilean president’s rejection of new envoy ‘seriously harms relations’

After Gabriel Boric refuses to accept Israeli ambassador’s credentials at last minute, Jerusalem says it will summon country’s envoy for a dressing down

Gil Artzyeli during an interview in 2017 (YouTube screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Gil Artzyeli during an interview in 2017 (YouTube screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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

“Israel takes a severe view of Chile’s puzzling and unprecedented behavior. This seriously harms the relations between the two countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said Chile’s ambassador to Israel had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry for a dressing down on Sunday, “where Israel’s response will be made clear to the ambassador.”

The Israeli ambassador, Gil Artzyeli, went to the government offices in Chile’s capital of Santiago Thursday to present his credentials to President Gabriel Boric along with other diplomats but was stopped in his tracks.

A diplomatic official with close knowledge of the incident who was not authorized to speak on the record told The Associated Press that Artzyeli “was already at the place, waiting to go into the room, when the minister of foreign relations came up to him and said that due to an incident that had taken place… with the death of a 17-year-old teenager in an operation by the Israeli military, the president had decided in that context to postpone the delivery of the credentials.”

No date has been scheduled yet for the delivery of the credentials, the source said.

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

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

“They apologized to me and the state of Israel numerous times,” Artzyeli told journalists after a meeting with Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ximena Fuentes. “It wasn’t a very comfortable incident this morning, but being Israeli and a Jew, my people have gone through worse things over the past four thousand years. And we will overcome this morning’s incident for the good of Chile, for the good of Israel and our bilateral relations.”

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

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

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric in Punta Arenas, Chile, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022 (AP Photo/Andres Poblete)

“President Boric boycotts bilateral relations, improvising a decision at the moment the ambassador was in the Foreign Relations Ministry,” the lawmakers who are part of a Chile-Israel interparliamentary group said in a letter Friday. “Situations like these demonstrate a profound disdain for the more than 70 years of friendship between Chile and Israel.”

Several opposition lawmakers also independently criticized Boric for the move.

Left-leaning Boric has frequently spoken up against Israel and its military operations. In a television interview last year, Boric, who became Chile’s president in March, was asked if he maintained his earlier stated opinion that Israel is a “genocidal and murderous” state. “I maintain it,” he answered.

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

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