U.S., Israel quit UNESCO
Our mission is in line with American values, says UNESCO
The U.S. on Thursday announced its withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), accusing it of “continuing anti-Israel bias.”
UNESCO is the first UN agency to have admitted Palestine as a full member in 2011. As required by law, the U.S. has stopped funding UNESCO since then. The U.S. withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018. Until then, it will remain a full member.
Israel has also decided to pull out of UNESCO, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “The Prime Minister has instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from the organisation alongside the U.S.,” his office said in a statement.
The United States’ decision to withdraw from the UNESCO is “a loss for multilateralism”, said the UN heritage agency’s Director General Irina Bokova.
“This is a loss to UNESCO. This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism,” Ms. Bokova said in a statement.
The U.S. State Department cited the agency’s “anti-Israel bias” as one of the reasons for its withdrawal. “The United States indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organisation, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
She said the U.S. would seek a permanent observer mission to UNESCO. “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” she said in a statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson notified Ms. Bokova of the decision.
U.S. laws bar funding to any U.N. agency that recognises the Palestinian state.
Ms. Bokova said, “despite the withholding of funding, since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful.”
In a statement, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The Prime Minister instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from the organisation alongside the United States.”
‘Theatre of the absurd’
Mr. Netanyahu “welcomes the decision by President [Donald] Trump to withdraw from UNESCO. This is a courageous and moral decision because UNESCO has become the theatre of the absurd and because instead of preserving history it distorts it.”
In a statement, the UNESCO chief underscored that the mission of the body was consonance with the “values of the people of America”, and listed a series of initiatives it has taken to combat anti-Semitism.