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Israel criticizes Chile for delaying ambassador credentials

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The Chilean government was engulfed in a diplomatic spat 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 occupied West Bank.

“Israel views with severity the puzzling & unprecedented behavior of Chile. This seriously harms the relations between the two countries,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter.

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.

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,” a diplomatic official with close knowledge of the incident who was not authorized to speak on the record told The Associated Press.

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

Israeli forces shot and killed Odai Salah in the occupied 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.

Chile’s ambassador to Israel “has been summoned … for a reprimanding conversation” on Sunday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said. “Israel’s response will be made clear to the ambassador.”

After the incident sparked controversy within Chile, Artzyeli was summoned to the 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.”

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

“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.”

By EVA VERGARA and DANIEL POLITI
Associated Press

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