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Israel Plans To Follow US In Exiting UN Agency

13 October 2017
Israel Plans To Follow US In Exiting UN Agency

The United States will remain a member, however, until the withdrawal takes effect on December 31, 2018.

"The United States has quit UNESCO over what they call an 'anti-Israel bias.' The US is pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation accusing the agency, known for designating world heritage sites such as Syria's Palmyra and Stonehenge of a continued bias at the organisation".

The decision to withdraw from UNESCO, which the United States helped found, was announced Thursday morning by the State Department, which said the United States would remain involved as a nonmember observer.

The US move underscores the scepticism expressed by President Donald Trump about the need for the United States to remain engaged in multi-lateral bodies. In addition to designating World Heritage sites, the organization's 1970 Convention was the first worldwide instrument dedicated to the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property.

A statement released by the PM's office said that Netanyahu had instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel's withdrawal from UNESCO. President Ronald Regan pulled the country from Unesco in 1984, claiming the body was biased in favour of the Soviet Union. The United States and Israel were among just 14 of 194 members that voted against admitting the Palestinians. "At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues".

In October 2016, Israel suspended its ties with UNESCO after the organization voted in favor of a resolution that warns over the escalating violence around the holy site in East Jerusalem, a territory that Israel seized in 1967 and annexed shortly later.

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

Director-General Irina Bokova expressed disappointment at the USA decision.

In July, the agency again delighted Palestinians when its members declared the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank an endangered World Heritage site - described as "another delusional decision" by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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.

It was founded in 1945 as allied countries "were looking for ways and means to reconstruct their systems of education once peace was restored" in the wake of World War II, according to the organization - which now has 195 members and eight associate members. The officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue, said the USA was notably angry over UNESCO resolutions denying Jewish connections to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.