Chilean MPs show support for Israel after local Palestinian backlash to MK visit

The Chilean MPs called to expand ties with Israel in the areas of water resources, entrepreneurship and innovation.

September 21, 2016 17:57
2 minute read.
A member of the Palestinian community in Chile paints a Palestinian flag on her face

A member of the Palestinian community in Chile paints a Palestinian flag on her face during a protest against Israel's military operations in Gaza. (photo credit: REUTERS)

NEW YORK – Members of the Chilean parliament wrote an open letter in support of MKs visiting Santiago on Tuesday, in response to a letter from their colleagues protesting the trip’s “legitimization” of Israel.

The original letter to newspaper La Tercera opposed a visit by Israel-Chile Parliamentary Friendship Group chairwoman MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) and MK Yossi Yona (Zionist Union), which included meetings with high-level officials including the foreign minister and parliament speaker, meant to strengthen relations between the two countries. It was signed by 16 MPs, some of whom identify as Palestinian.

Chile has more than 300,000 residents of Palestinian descent, making it home to the largest Palestinian diaspora outside the Arab world.

The new letter was signed by 19 diputados, as the parliamentarians are known.

“The demonization of Israel, especially in relation to this conflict, does not contribute anything. On the contrary, it merely releases of its responsibilities the other party involved – the leadership of the Palestinian people, which has repeatedly rejected the genuine Israeli offers to reach a final peace agreement,” the letter reads.

The MPs noted that the protesters have not called to cut ties with any country other than Israel.

The Chilean lawmakers’ pointed out that the Israeli delegation was composed of a coalition and an opposition MK, and they were able to learn that Israel is “a country which enjoys good relations with several Arab nations, with which it shares technology, trade and a deep concern for the future of an increasingly unstable region. It is the only Middle Eastern state where minority rights are protected, and there is ample press freedom and respect for women. This is even more valuable in a difficult context of terrorism and threats.”

The MPs called to expand ties with Israel in the areas of water resources, entrepreneurship and innovation, saying there is “only mutual benefit to political, cultural and economic ties” between Jerusalem and Santiago.

Haskel thanked the MPs for their letter, saying that she has worked hard as the parliamentary friendship group’s chairwoman for the last year “opposing the wave of antisemitism and incitement against Israel...

which the Palestinian lobby in Chile does not stop fomenting.”

The successful meetings with several Chilean ministers and other officials are the best response to the local Palestinian lobby’s agitation and calls for boycotts against Israel, the Likud MK added.

She called the protesting MPs’ behavior “blatant antisemitism.”

“We will not abandon the international arena to the enemies of Israel, who are trying to destroy Israel’s relations with other countries,” Haskel said.

“The fact that there is a letter in appreciation of Israel by Chilean MPs in response to the racist letter by the Palestinian MPs proves the importance of the personal relationships created between me... and MPs in Chile.”

Yona said the Chilean Palestinian lobby sought to “slander and attack” Israel, and also expressed concerns about antisemitic undertones.

“It’s clear that the lobby does not want dialogue between nations and isn’t interested in a diplomatic arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The proof is that its representatives rejected our offers to meet with them. They reject Israel’s right to exist and call for its destruction,” he stated.

Yona continued that, despite their political differences, he and Haskel are united in fighting “brutal attacks” on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and in seeking a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

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