Netanyahu says Israel to leave UNESCO, following US

13 October, 2017, 00:20 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • UNESCO- Reuters

UNESCO, which is best known for producing the list of World Heritage sites that includes the Grand Canyon and other U.S. attractions, has been the scene of diplomatic flare-ups in recent years after Arab countries succeeded in passing a number of resolutions critical of Israel.

Today the Trump administration announced the United States will leave UNESCO, the United Nations development agency, over the organization's alleged "anti-Israel bias". Washington is also reviewing its membership of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, which it also accuses of being anti-Israel.

The Trump administration has been preparing for a likely withdrawal for months, and a decision was expected before the end of the year, according to United States officials.

The organization has a long history of taking anti-Israel measures, and supporting resolutions against the Jewish state.

UNESCO has become a poster child for how United Nations agencies have had their missions perverted by the anti-Israel agenda.

The Department of State announced on Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes.

Hours after the U.S. announced its withdrawal, the Israel joined in, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he had instructed his foreign ministry to begin preparations to leave.

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In a statement, the State Department said the decision will take effect December 31, 2018, and that the USA will seek a "permanent observer" status instead.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for Unesco by the USA have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of Unesco by senior U.S. officials, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

UNESCO's executive board plans to select her successor Friday in a secret ballot.

It's worth noting that when the USA withdraws from UNESCO, as pledged, it will not be for the first time.

"This is another example of the Trump's administration's profound ambivalence and concern about the way the U.N.is structured and behaves, and it shows the administration's determination to separate itself from its predecessors", said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator and adviser in Republican and Democratic administrations.

But according to Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, the Trump administration found it to be a step too far when the agency decided this summer to designate "the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory".

Director-General Irina Bokova expressed disappointment at the United States decision. "Ideally, it steers it in way that US interests and UNESCO's mandate will converge".

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