United States Announces Withdrawal From UNESCO, Cites 'Anti-Israel Bias'

UNESCO and Jerusalem

Citing in part its "anti-Israel bias" and otherwise complaining of costs, the Trump administration announced Thursday that the USA will withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations agency focused on education, science, and culture.

The withdraw becomes official on December 31, 2018, after which the United States will remain involved as a nonmember observer state.

That year the U.S. stopped paying into UNESCO but did not officially withdraw.

As part of the decision, the United States notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the intent to withdraw and become a permanent observer of the body instead.

The Trump administration and Israel have voiced concern over a series of Unesco decisions, including the listing of the city of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site.

The US announced its withdrawal from UNESCO complaining about how it is run and about what Washington described as bias against Israel.

The organization has a long history of taking anti-Israel measures, and supporting resolutions against the Jewish state.

"UNESCO is about promoting our ideals and values through culture, education and science", France's United Nations ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters in NY, adding that "we need an America that stays committed to world affairs".

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UNESCO chief Bokova defended her agency's reputation, noting its efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism — and saying that the Statue of Liberty is among the many World Heritage sites protected by the United Nations agency.

President George W. Bush announced America's return in 2002, but relations soured again in 2011 when Barack Obama pulled the plug on funding to the body after its members voted to admit Palestine as a full member.

Bokova released a statement in light of the news.

The 2016 resolution condemned Israel's "escalating aggressions" regarding a holy site in Jerusalem's Old City, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Praising Trump's decision as "brave and moral", Netanyahu said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare for Israel's withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans.

Of all the United Nations bodies, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) might be the hardest to dislike. This is a loss to the United Nations family. As Foreign Policy magazine points out, the USA made a decision to pull out of the agency in 1984 during the Reagan administration, which at that time complained of - in the words of Foreign Policy - "corruption and what it considered an ideological tilt toward the Soviet Union against the West".

"At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack", she said in an extensive statement Thursday.

UNESCO's executive board plans to select her successor Friday in a secret ballot. But, in 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan withdrew the country from the organization, citing corruption.

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