In a landmark dialogue at the White House, Chilean President Gabriel Boric fervently conveyed his distress to President Joe Biden over Israel's "disproportionate" response in Gaza following Hamas's attacks. The meeting highlighted diverging views on a conflict deeply rooted in historical and humanitarian complexities.
Photo: 02/11/2023.- US President Joe Biden (R) holds a bilateral meeting with President Gabriel Boric of Chile in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA. EFE/EPA/Chris Kleponis / POOL
The Latin American Post Staff
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Leer en español: El presidente chileno Boric aborda preocupaciones humanitarias con el presidente Biden
Chilean President's Unequivocal Stand
On a crisp autumn day in Washington, D.C., beneath the stately aura of the Oval Office, a conversation unfolded between two presidents that would underscore the global concerns over a conflict centuries in the making. Chilean President Gabriel Boric, during his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, voiced a solid objection to Israel's intensive bombardment of the Gaza Strip, a reaction to the Islamist group Hamas's attack on October 7th.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been at the center of Middle Eastern politics for more than a century, reached a new boiling point with the Hamas-initiated violence, prompting a series of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. These actions have historically followed escalations that often see ceasefires and peace deals fall apart as both sides grapple with a complex interplay of historical grievances, political ideologies, and territorial claims.
Chilean President's Stance
In the aftermath of the encounter with Biden, President Boric, speaking to the press, confirmed that he had communicated his unease regarding the relentless Israeli airstrikes, which have culminated in over 9,000 deaths within the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The region, densely populated and frequently caught in the crossfire, has seen its humanitarian crisis deepen with each military engagement.
Limits of Self-Defense
Boric, in his address, emphasized the rising civilian toll, "With over 8,000 deaths since the beginning of Israel's attacks, we can state unequivocally that the response has been disproportionate. It is a violation of international humanitarian law, and the situation in Gaza is unacceptable."
As Chile's head of state, Boric unequivocally condemned the initial attack by Hamas on October 7th, which led to 1,400 fatalities and the abduction of 242 individuals to Gaza. However, he stressed the importance of not being coerced into taking sides. He articulated his position, expressing that while the acts of Hamas warrant global condemnation, the actions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government deserve an equally clear denunciation.
Chile's Unique Position
The Chilean leader's stance is particularly noteworthy, given Chile's unique position in the global arena. Home to nearly 500,000 Palestinians, the largest Palestinian community outside the Arab world, Chile has had a historically complex relationship with the conflict. The nation formally recognized Palestine as a "free, independent, and sovereign state" in 2011, during the first term of conservative President Sebastián Piñera.
In expressing his viewpoints, Boric, a steadfast advocate for the Palestinian cause, stressed the boundaries of state defense, "The right to self-defense has limits, and these limits imply respect for the lives of civilians, predominantly children, and adherence to international humanitarian law."
When questioned about President Biden's reaction to his concerns about Israel's actions, Boric respectfully declined to speak on behalf of the U.S. president. However, the meeting did reflect the contrasting perspectives held by the two leaders on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a subject fraught with moral and geopolitical implications.
Earlier, in a decisive move, President Boric summoned the Chilean ambassador in Tel Aviv, José Carvajal, for consultations in response to "Israel's violations of international humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip," underscoring Chile's stance on the issue.
Encounters of Presidents
The Oval Office meeting, while being the first of its kind between the two leaders, marked their second encounter following a brief interaction at the IX Summit of the Americas in 2022 in Los Angeles. This exchange comes on the eve of the inaugural Summit for Economic Prosperity in the Americas (APEP), an initiative introduced by President Biden during the 2022 Summit of the Americas aimed at combating economic inequality and encouraging regional integration.
The conversation between Boric and Biden signifies more than just bilateral dialogue; it is a testament to the enduring complexity of international diplomacy when faced with long-standing conflicts. It illustrates how nations, thousands of miles apart, remain inextricably linked by the threads of history, politics, and the shared pursuit of humanitarian justice.