Published: Sun, October 15, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Israel, US to quit UNESCO citing 'anti-Israel bias'

Israel, US to quit UNESCO citing 'anti-Israel bias'

On October 12, 2017, the Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the USA decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO. "Mounting arrears" was also cited by the state department as one other reason why the us withdrew from UNESCO.

The Department of State announced Thursday that it will officially pull back from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by the end of 2018, taking an inactive observer role rather than that of a contributing member.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Thursday noted UNESCO's "good goal" and declared "extreme politicization" of the structure.

The president has touted an "America First" policy, which puts USA economic and national interests ahead of global commitments.

In the statement, Netanyahu hailed the US move as a courageous and moral decision. In 2002, George W Bush joined UNESCO again, and in 2011, Barack Obama cut most U.S. funding to UNESCO due to the organization's recognition of Palestine.

The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO's funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organisation, founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world. To protest the vote, both Israel and the U.S. stopped their funding to the organization and in 2014 lost their voting rights.

Permanent representative of the Russian Federation to UNESCO Alexander Kuznetsov, who is now in Paris, told TASS that the decision of the United States was regrettable.

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Hours later, Israel said that it would also be leaving the United Nations agency. He says, "Organizations like UNESCO are always struggling to get members to pay their dues on time in any case".

It marked the third time in less than a year that Israel has reacted to United Nations resolutions it deems biased against it by announcing the slashing of its payments to the body.

The U.S. ceased funding UNESCO in 2011 after the organization voted to accept Palestine as a full member (107 countries voted in favor, 14 against).

Irina Bokova, UNESCO's outgoing director-general, said she "deeply regrets" the decision and is convinced that "UNESC has never been so important for the United States, or the U.S. for UNESCO" given the rise of what she called violent extremism and terrorism in the world.

As for the broader impact, Gupta said, the already-diminishing respect for the United States in the community of nations will diminish even further.

The organisation has been struggling financially for a while because of the United States not paying its membership dues (at approximately US$70 million per year, they represented almost a quarter of UNESCO's operating budget). Marco Rubio, R-Florida, applauded Trump's decision to withdraw from UNESCO.

In 2015, according to The New York Times, UNESCO criticized Israel for "aggressions" and for blocking Muslims from accessing the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

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