U.S., Israel to exit UNESCO, citing its ‘anti-Israel bias’
4 WASHINGTON >> The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, after years of the United States distancing itself because of what it called the group’s “anti-Israel bias.”
The administration also cited mounting arrears at the organization as a reason for the decision. “We were in arrears to the tune of $550 million or so, and so the question is, do we want to pay that money?” Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said Thursday at a news briefing. She added, “With this anti-Israel bias that’s long documented on the part of UNESCO, that needs to come to an end.” UNESCO is a global development agency with missions that include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women.
In a lengthy written statement, Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s director general, expressed regret at the decision and said the American people shared the organization’s goals.
Cultural organizations in the United States criticized the decision, saying UNESCO played a key role in preserving vital cultural heritage worldwide.
In July, UNESCO declared the ancient and hotly contested core of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as a Palestinian World Heritage site in danger, a decision sharply criticized by Israel and its allies. And in 2015, UNESCO adopted a resolution that criticized Israel for mishandling heritage sites in Jerusalem and condemned “Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against freedom of worship.”
In a statement released Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel praised the move by the United States and pledged to withdraw Israel from the organization as well.