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Chilean president’s visit to Israel sparks a bit of a diplomatic incident

Sebastián Piñera at Kotel

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera at the Western Wall. (Western Wall Heritage Foundation)

By Aryeh Savir

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, June 26, hosted Chilean President Sebastián Piñera at his official residence in Jerusalem, during which he responded to Piñera’s June 25 visit on the Temple Mount, which generated a diplomatic incident.

Piñera was accompanied by senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials during his visit, in contrast to an earlier agreement with Israel on the issue.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz directed the ministry to reprimand Mónica Jiménez, Chile’s ambassador to Israel, and senior officials accompanying the president of Chile during his visit to Israel.

The Palestinian community in Chile is believed to be the largest Palestinian community outside of the Arab world, numbering from 450,000-500,000.

Piñera also visited the Kotel, where Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites Shmuel Rabinowitz recited a chapter of Psalms with Piñera him and blessed him with King Solomon’s prayer that all his prayers will be accepted with good will, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement.

Rabinowitz added that visiting the Western Wall “expresses identification with the values and heritage of the Jewish nation.”

At the beginning of his June 26 remarks, Rivlin noted the historic connection between the State of Israel and its capital, Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people since the days of King David. As you know, the sovereign State of Israel allows, develops and cares for freedom of worship and religion for all those who enter the gates of Jerusalem. Our historical connection to Jerusalem, and our sovereignty in Jerusalem, make us responsible for preserving Jerusalem as a city of faith and peace,” he stated.

However, he said that “the relations between our two countries have had ups and downs, but at the basis of all this is a solid foundation of friendship.”

Piñera reportedly apologized and told Rivlin that his visit was supposed to be a private one and that the PA representatives arrived uninvited and on their own initiative.

Pinera, who is in Israel for the second time on a three-day official visit, is slated to visit areas under Palestinian Authority control.

Referring to his counterpart’s visit to the PA, Rivlin stressed the need to promote cooperation and not boycott diplomatic initiatives.

“Peace is the aspiration of the people of Israel. The gaps between us and the Palestinians are great, but we must begin with small steps of cooperation, and not to boycott or refuse plans that will improve our economic and social situation. We must cooperate in every field where we can work together. That is the only way,” he stated.

The PA is boycotting the US-sponsored Peace to Prosperity workshop in Manama, Bahrain.  The summit is considered a major step towards the unveiling of President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East.

Piñera stressed his country’s appreciation for Israel’s “goodwill to find the path to peace and harmony with the Palestinian people.”

He said “I know that you have always asked for peace in the Holy Land. It is a land sacred to a very large part of mankind, the capital of the three monotheistic religions. This is the place for a meeting where the three religions can cooperate with each other.”

Piñera was slated to meet with Netanyahu later on Wednesday in Jerusalem, during which agreements between the two countries are expected to be signed.


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