Biden's Chilean guest says Israeli strikes are war crimes

Chile’s president accuses Israel of war crimes moments after meeting Biden: Gabriel Boric uses White House doorstep to condemn the ‘disproportionate’ Gaza strikes in response to Hamas attack

  • President Gabriel Boric’s government recognizes Palestine as a state
  • On Thursday, it was all smiles as he met President Joe Biden in the Oval Office
  • Minutes later he said Israel was violating international humanitarian law in Gaza

After smiling warmly with Joe Biden in the Oval Office, Chile’s president stepped out of the White House on Thursday afternoon and condemned Israeli strikes on Gaza as war crimes.

President Gabriel Boric used the platform of a White House visit to tell the world’s media that Biden could not tell him to pick sides in the Middle East turmoil.

‘Day by day, the number of civilian casualties continues to rise, and with over 8,000 deaths since the beginning of Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip, we can undoubtedly say that the response has been disproportionate,’ he said.

‘International humanitarian law is being violated, and what is happening in the Gaza Strip is unacceptable.’

He could barely have picked a more symbolic location for his remarks — the doorstep of Israel’s closest ally and biggest donor. 

Chilean President Gabriel Boric used the platform of a White House visit to tell the world’s media that Israel had violated international humanitarian law with its attacks on Gaza

Minutes earlier Boric had been laughing with his host, President Joe Biden, as they compared their ages and how they had both been elected to 

Boric made his comments outside the entrance to the West Wing, where Biden and officials have taken pains to outline their energetic support Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza. 

While a growing number of world leaders have turned against the massive military offensive, Biden has made clear that he stands with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu as it responds to a terrorist attack that killed 1400 people. 

Hours earlier, one his spokesmen, John Kirby, had responded to questions about Palestinian civilians being killed by describing Hamas’ bloodlust. 

And minutes earlier Boric and Biden had looked the best of friends. They joked gently about each other’s ages and waxed lyrical about their countries’ commitment to democracy.

‘The only problem I have with you is you’re too young,’ Biden told Boric, who is 37 years old. 

‘That’s not a problem,’ Boric responded, as they compared notes about beginning their electoral careers at a young age.

But there was a sign of tension to come. When a reporter asked whether Boric planned to raise concerns about Israel and Gaza, the leftist leader (who wears a beard and tattoos but not a tie) nodded.

And a day earlier, Chile recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations about the crisis unfolding in Gaza.

Boric used the West Wing as his backdrop as he condemned Israel in front of the media

A Palestinian man holds the dead body of a child in his arms amid destruction caused by Israeli attacks at Al Bureij Refugee Camp as Israeli attacks continue on the 27th day in Gaza City

An Israeli air strike on the Tal Al Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City on Thursday

People check the rubble of buildings destroyed in an Israeli strike on the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip

So White House officials may have had an inkling of what was in store when their guest arrived Thursday. 

After his Oval Office meeting, Boric, who is seen as the vanguard of a new generation of leftwing leader in South America, stepped out on to the north drive and addressed reporters.

He said he categorically condemned the Hamas attack on October 7.

But went on: ‘We do not accept being forced to choose between one side or the other. Both these attacks by Hamas, which are unjustifiable and deserve global condemnation, and what the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is doing, deserve our strongest condemnation. 

‘The right to self-defense of a state has limits, and these limits include respecting the lives of innocent civilians, primarily children, and international humanitarian law.’

Boric was just 35 when he was elected president after a meteoric rise. He is seen as a new breed of leftist South American leader

His supporters filled the streets of Santiago after he won a run-off election in December 2021

Boric began his meteoric rise a decade ago, as a student leading protests demanding better education.

He was elected president two years ago. His manifesto of higher taxes for the rich and better protections for the poor delivered him more votes than any candidate in history.

Despite his tough stance on Israel and leftist positions, U.S. officials see him as the sort of leader with whom they can build an alliance against hardline socialists in the Western hemisphere. 

Boric said he had also discussed Cuba and Venezuela with Biden. He described talking about the importance of working with neighbors to ensure that elections in Venezuela next year ‘have all the necessary guarantees.’

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