Chile and Israel: A relationship with ups and downs.

Chile and Israel have had a good relationship, with diplomatic ties since the 1950s, but they improved after 1973 when a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet toppled the Socialist President Allende, with the support of the US, establishing a dictatorship that ruled the country until 1990[1]. One of the closest ties was in the area of defense and security. For example, in 1981, Chile purchased Israeli tanks[2]. The close relationship in this area continued even after the dictatorship, with purchases of the Israeli military system in 1993 and 2010[3]

Since the 2000s, Chile was mainly ruled by two persons: Michelle Bachelet, and Sebastian Piñera. Both presidents express moderate views but have opposite ideologies. Bachelet, who occupied the President Office for the periods 2006-2010 and 2014-2018, has a more social-democratic view while Piñera, President for the periods 2010-2014 and 2018-2022, holds more conservative positions. [4]

The Chilean- Israel relationship

Over the years, the relationship had its ups and downs. For example, in 2009, the car of the Israeli Ambassador was shot in Chile without any victims. In 2016 the wife of the Israeli Ambassador was excluded from a Diplomatic Spouse meeting. In response, most Western countries decided to boycott the meeting[5]. Only two years later, in 2018, the Chilean Parliament approved a resolution demanding the government “forbid the entry of products manufactured and coming from Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory.” The decision had 99 votes in favor, and only seven against[6]. The last incident was during the visit of President Piñera in June 2019, when during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he visited the Temple Mountain with Palestinian officials in what is was consider by Israel a violation of Israel’s sovereignty at the holy place[7]

President Rivlin with President Pinera of Chile during his visit to Israel, June 2019
Credit: Mark Neyman / Government Press Office (Israel) [CC BY-SA (

Despite these incidents, the relationship continued without any significant clash, and multiple treaties were signed between both countries in numerous areas as Education, Science, Environment Protection, and more[8]. Israel has also collaborated with the Chilean authorities during the earthquakes of 1965 and 2010. The IDF has also helped in 2019 in the finding of Chilean Military plane that crashed on its way to Antarctica.[9] 

The Palestinian Community in Chile 

Being considered as the biggest in the world, outside of the Middle East, the Palestinian Community in Chile has about 500 thousand members. Most of them are Christian who emigrated to the South American country in the 1930s before the creation of the State of Israel. 

The Palestinian community has adapted to the Chilean Society, and they conform one of the most influential communities in the country. Some of its members own banks, agriculture fields, and more, including football club, Deportivo Palestino, who won 2 championships and 2 cups[10]. In 2014, the club decided to put the whole map of Israel as Palestine on the team shirts instead of the number 1. After the protest of the Jewish Community, which has around 10-20 thousand members, the map was removed from the back of the shirts[11].

Despite the strong national identity of the Palestinian and their identification with their Middle East relatives, it is important to highlight the fact that despite some tension, both communities are living in peace. 

Doing Business in Chile 

Chile is ranked 56 among 190 economies on the Ease of Doing Business Report 2019, right after Mexico, that was ranked 54. For example, in the category of Trading across borders, Chile ranks 73, way better than Peru (102), Brazil (108), and Argentina (119)[12]

Also, according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI), Chile is the 42nd largest export economy in the world. In 2017, Chile exported $70.1B and imported $62.7B, resulting in a positive trade balance of $7.48B. Around 45% of the exportations are cooper related. Other significant areas of export are fish fillets, agriculture products, and sulfate chemical wood-pulp. On the other side, Cars, Petroleum, and Broadcasting equipment take an important place in Chilean Imports[13]

Santiago de Chile, Chile
Credit: David Pozo [CC BY-SA (

Regarding the Economic Bilateral relation with Israel, according to the General Directorate of International Economic Relations, the bilateral trade accounts for 282 million dollars, with 153 million dollars for Chilean exports to Israel and 129 million dollars for Israel exports to Chile. Israel’s most significant import from Chile is Salmon fish, accounting for 56 million dollars in exports, and its main export is plastic products for around 8 million dollars.[14] 

Areas for future cooperation

Chile is looking to diversify its dependency from cooper, and one of the areas chosen was the hi-tech, focusing on creating an excellent ecosystem to the creation of Start-ups[15]. The country is considered the 30th best tech hub and the best in Latin America overpassing other countries like Mexico and Brazil[16]

In 2010, the Chilean government created a program called StartUp Chile (SUP), aimed to position the country as a hub for innovation in Latin America. StartUp Chile was the first governmental accelerator of its kind, supporting over 1,600 start-ups, with more than 4,500 entrepreneurs from 85 countries and a survival rate of 54.5%. All the companies have raised over 998 million USD (18.3X the investment), making the program a huge success and inspiring over 50 public accelerators worldwide, such as Startup Peru (Peru), Startup Brasil (Brazil), Ruta N (Colombia), K-Startup Grand Challenge (South Korea), among others.[17]

Given the entrepreneurial spirits of both Israelis and Chileans, there are greats of opportunities for cooperation, for example, on water management. Recently, President Piñera declared a water emergency due to the worst drought in 60 years.[18] The World Data Lab, created a Water Scarcity Clock that showed that 52% of the Chilean Population lives in water-scarce water, with more than 8 million people living with absolute scarcity. [19] In this difficult situation, over 85% of the water is going to agriculture and only 5-10% to the population. [20]Israel, a world leader in water management, can provide solutions to help the Chilean people. 

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