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Chile — with big Palestinian population — debates whether to recognize Palestine.
At the same time, however, Chile has more than 300,000 Palestinians, the largest population outside the Middle East.
Daniel Jadue, a member of the Palestinian Federation in Chile, said that despite its size, the Palestinian community has become a real political force only recently.
The first Palestinian immigrants, mostly Christian, arrived in Chile in the early 20th century to work in commerce. Decades later and to this day, Chileans of Palestinian origin boast some of the biggest fortunes in the country and hold top positions in government, politics, business and academic circles, rubbing elbows with conspicuous members of the 18,000-strong Jewish community.
Beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one thing is sure: For more than a century, Palestinians and Jews in Chile have worked side-by-side in harmony, a unique example of peaceful coexistence, says the Jewish Community of Chile, that would be imperiled by the “reckless and counterproductive” decision to unilaterally recognize the Palestinian State, “needlessly importing the Middle East conflict to Chile.”
Center-left Congressman Ramon Farias, member of the parliamentary Israeli-Chilean Group of Friends, said unilateral recognition would set a dangerous precedent for Chile as a country disrespectful of international bodies and negotiations.
“Ignoring the international peace process and unilaterally recognizing Palestine would undermine our credibility at the Hague, which is currently settling a dispute over maritime borders presented by Peru against Chile,” he said.
In a public statement, the Israeli Embassy in Chile argued that the Palestinian campaign for unilateral recognition of statehood “is a negation of reality.” According to the embassy, “it is evident that if Abbas doesn’t resolve the problem of Hamas, he will not achieve the establishment of a Palestinian State, even if the entire universe recognizes it.”
But the Chilean decision may hinge more on Pinera’s political instincts than on the political realism of Israeli or Palestinian officials.
“Pinera is very concerned about his international image, his ranking in polls and his impact on public opinion," said Daniel Jadue. "He has an acute business and political intuition and knows he can profit politically from recognizing the state of Palestine, something the more progressive previous governments never dared to do."