UNESCO Withdrawal 'Counterproductive,' According to UN Foundation Official

Joy Montgomery
October 15, 2017

He says he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans.

The United States will withdraw from UNESCO at the end of next year, the State Department said Thursday, in order to stop accumulating uppaid dues and make a stand on what it said is anti-Israel bias at the U.N.'s educational, science and cultural organization.

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

Netanyahu told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly last month that UNESCO was promoting "fake history" after it designated Hebron and the two adjoined shrines at its heart - the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque - as a "Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger".

The withdrawal is part of the U.S. administration's desire for wider United Nations reforms and if UNESCO goes back to addressing only culture, Washington "might take another look on it", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

A press statement from the State Department says the decision was also based on "the need for fundamental reform in the organization" as well as stacking up bills the US owes UNESCO.

China will continue to actively participate in and support the work of UNESCO, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Friday. However, this is what U.S. was reduced to anyway after it pulled funding in 2011. US President Donald Trump's Administration also had no provisions in next year's budget for this objective, The Time wrote.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also praised Washington's move as heralding "a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel".

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The U.S. stopped making payments to the agency in 2011, but maintained an office at its Paris headquarters in the hopes of encouraging a change of course from behind the scenes.

UNESCO was once a low-profile United Nations agency best known for producing a list of World Heritage sites including tourist favourites such as the Grand Canyon or Cambodia's Angkor Wat, as well as running science, media and cultural programmes.

Washington has already withheld its funding for UNESCO since 2011, when the body admitted Palestine as a full member.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a Thursday statement expressed "profound regret" at the country's decision to withdraw from UNESCO.

She said "politicisation" had "taken its toll" on the organisation in recent years.

The resolution also criticised Israel's activities at holy places in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

After the 1984 withdrawal, for what was described as pro-Soviet Union bias, the US rejoined in 2002 as part of an effort by the George W. Bush administration to emphasize a message of worldwide cooperation.

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan took to Twitter and called on the U.S. to stop funding the United Nations if the global body publishes the so-called "blacklist" of companies that operate there.

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