Israel to follow U.S., quit UNESCO


Under UNESCO rules, the US withdrawal will become effective as of the end of December 2018.

The US is pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation Unesco, accusing it of "anti-Israel" bias.

The United States will withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, voiced "profound regret" over the decision, calling it a "loss to multilateralism".

Yet, the US State Department announced today (Oct. 12) that the United States would withdraw from UNESCO membership.

"Despite the withholding of funding, since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful", she underscored.

The cultural aid agency - which seeks to coordinate global efforts in education, science and heritage remembrance - has been at odds with the USA since 2011, when it voted overwhelmingly to offer full membership to a state of Palestine.

Hours later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would quit too, calling the USA decision "brave and moral".

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One of UNESCO's founding nations, the United States has had a rocky relationship with the Paris-based organization over the years.

Israel, which remains a UNESCO member, said the move by the Trump administration marked a "new era" for the United Nations and showed there was a "price to pay for discrimination against Israel".

In the run-up to selecting a candidate for the director-general position of UNESCO, most countries will pull out of the race if their candidate fails to secure 10 or more votes in two rounds. It might be alluding to the fact that Palestine, which has not been granted full membership to the United Nations, is a UNESCO member, and that the West Bank city of Hebron was recently named an official world heritage site in a UNESCO statement that also called Israeli occupation of the territory illegal.

Haley called the decision to classify the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a UNESCO World Heritage Site "just the latest in a long line of foolish actions, which includes keeping Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protestors".

"UNESCO has become a battlefield for Israel bashing and has disregarded its true role and goal", Danon said.

Israel has been irked by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have instead named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites. Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley has repeatedly denounced these actions, and said the USA was "evaluating" whether or not it should continue as a member of the organization.

Director-General Irina Bokova expressed disappointment at the USA decision. With no funds forthcoming, the US lost its vote in the agency in 2013.