Chile Tells Israel President Wasn't Aware of Palestinian Officials During Temple Mount Visit

Israel reprimanded ambassador because Pinera was accompanied by head of Jerusalem's Waqf and the Palestinian Jerusalem affairs minister

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Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his wife Cecilia Morel stand in front of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his wife Cecilia Morel stand in front of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019.Credit: \ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his delegation were not aware and did not agree to be formally accompanied by Palestinian officials during their visit on the Temple Mount, Chile's Embassy in Israel said in a missive, according to a statement released Wednesday by Israel's Foreign Ministry.

The missive was sent after Palestinian officials accompanied Pinera's Tuesday visit at the holy site, including the head of Jerusalem's Waqf Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadmi.

Israel's Foreign Ministry reprimanded the Chilean ambassador after the visit, saying that the Palestinian officials' presence violated an earlier agreement.

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A statement released by the ministry said that Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz "views gravely any violation of Israel's sovereignty on the Temple Mount, especially when it takes place in violation of protocol and clear agreements." The statement went on to add that "one must separate between complete religious freedom, which Israel insists on upholding, and the maintenance of our sovereignty over the Temple Mount."

Chile is a home to a Palestinian community considered the largest in the world outside the Middle East. Leaders of the Palestinian community there, as well as of Chile’s Jewish community, are accompanying Pinera on his trip.

The official schedule distributed by Israel's Foreign Ministry ahead of the three-day visit listed Tuesday as a “private visit,” aside from a visit at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. On the same day the Chilean president visited the Temple Mount, Western Wall and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Pinera and Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, June 26, 2019.Credit: AFP

Earlier Wednesday, Pinera met with President Reuven Rivlin for lunch at his official residence and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The meeting with Netanyahu was also attended by Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and the director general of the Science and Technology Ministry Ran Bar on the Israeli side, and by Science Minister Andres Couve and Foreign Ministry Secretary General Patricio Torres on the Chilean side.

During the meeting, Netanyahu told Pinera that both Israel and Chile share the "values of democracy and human rights" and that both leaders share a belief in free-market economy. The two nations signed three agreements in the areas of technology, health and aviation.

Later Wednesday Netanyahu hosted Pinera for a private dinner at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.

In Israel, Pinera also visited on Wednesday the space center at Israel Aerospace Industries, the Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Karem and the agriculture firm Naandanjain.

Pinera’s visit to the Palestinian Authority will take place on Thursday, where he is expected to visit Yasser Arafat’s gravesite in Ramallah and meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials. The president was originally said to have been planning to visit the Al-Amari refugee camp outside Ramallah and a school operated by UNRWA, but both visits did not appear on the official Chilean agenda.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara hosting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his wife Cecilia Morel in Jerusalem, June 26, 2019. Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO

Pinera is scheduled to depart on Thursday afternoon to Japan, to attend the G-20 summit in Osaka.

This is Pinera's second visit in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, after, during his first term in 2011, he was the first sitting Chilean president visit the region. His decided to make another visit following his re-election last year and his meeting with Netanyahu in Brazil, at President Jair Bolsonaro inauguration in January.

In November, the Chilean parliament approved a resolution calling on the government to act to boycott settlements in any future agreement with Israel and to reexamine past agreements to make sure they relate solely to areas within the Green Line. The resolution includes a clause that requires the Chilean Foreign Service to ensure that all agreements in the future also relate only to those borders. The resolution was passed by a vote of 99-7, with 30 abstentions. 

The resolution recognizes a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Chile has recognized a Palestinian state in the past, and its Foreign Ministry is considering whether to turn the approved resolution into legislation.