Israel Rebukes Chilean Ambassador Over Pinera's Visit to Temple Mount With Palestinians

Foreign Ministry states it 'views gravely' the 'violation of Israeli sovereignty’ ■ Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East ■ Pinera won’t visit a refugee camp, as was originally planned

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Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his wife Cecilia Morel walk on the compound of the Temple Mount, during their visit to Jerusalem's Old City June 25, 2019.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and his wife Cecilia Morel walk on the compound of the Temple Mount, during their visit to Jerusalem's Old City June 25, 2019.Credit: \ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

Israel's Foreign Ministry reprimanded the Chilean ambassador to the country after Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who is currently on a visit in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was accompanied to Jerusalem's Temple Mount on Tuesday by Palestinian officials.

According to the ministry, it was decided in an earlier agreement with the Chileans that Palestinian officials would not accompany Pinera, who had also paid a visit to the Western Wall.

In a statement released by the ministry, it 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."

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera visits the Western Wall, a holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 25, 2019.Credit: Mahmoud Illean,AP
Sebastian Pinera at the Dome of the Rock during their visit on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019.Credit: \ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

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

The official schedule of the visit distributed by Israel's Foreign Ministry listed Tuesday as a “private visit,” aside from a visit by Pinera in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. During that day, the Chilean president visited religious sites, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

On Wednesday, Pinera will meet with President Reuven Rivlin for lunch and in the afternoon with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu will also host Pinera for a private dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Chilean President Pinera visits Bethlehem's Church of NativityCredit: Ruptly / YouTube

Pinera also visited on Wednesday the space center at Israel Aerospace Industries and is slated to visit 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.

Pinera during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019.Credit: AFP

Pinera 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 do not appear on the official Chilean visit schedule.

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

Pinera visited Israel and the PA during his first term in 2011, and was the first sitting Chilean president to do so. After he was elected to a second term last year, he decided to make another visit following 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.

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