USA withdraws from UNESCO over "anti-Israel bias"

UNESCO and Jerusalem

The U.S. has withdrawn from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a State Department spokeswoman said Thursday.

"This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO", the Department of State's press release said.

The decision will come into force on December 31, 2018.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for Unesco by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of Unesco by senior USA officials, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Washington intends to participate in the fulfillment by UNESCO of a number of its functions, including the protection of the world cultural heritage, the protection of press freedom, the promotion of scientific cooperation and the educational process.

The text denounced "all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem".

The UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák is also "concerned that the decision by the United States to withdraw could have adverse impacts upon the important work of UNESCO", according to a statement from his spokesperson.

"The goal of UNESCO is a good one", US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement.

In 2011, the United States stopped funding Unesco due to what was then a forgotten, 15-year-old amendment mandating a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts Palestine as a full member.

In a statement, Bokova said that "despite the withholding of funding, since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful".

Tensions have flared again in recent years: in 2011, the United States stopped funding the agency after UNESCO voted to admit the Palestinian Authority as a full member; two years later, the USA lost its vote due to these financial cuts.

She said the USA pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for global alliances.

Many saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

In the statement, Netanyahu hailed the U.S. move as a "courageous and moral decision".

Trump pulled U.S. out of UNESCO. "The organisation's absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel have consequences".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the vote "another delusional decision" by UNESCO, which promotes education, cultural development and free media initiatives around the world.

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