The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) received a notification on Thursday of the United States’ intention to withdraw at the end of 2018. Washington decided to quit the agency due to anti-Israeli bias. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose nation is quitting too, considers the U.S. announcement “brave and moral.”

Although the State Department said the country would like to act as a nonmember observer state and remain part of discussions, authorities said the withdrawal would help push the agency to make a fundamental reform. One official who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Washington Post the decision was aimed at raising awareness about the UN’s politicization against Israel.

Israel leaving UNESCO, United States leaving UNESCO
United States claims UNESCO has ‘anti-Israel bias.’ Image credit: UNESCO

The UNESCO admitted Palestine as a full member six years ago, a move that led Washington to withhold its funding for the Paris-based body after it counted among 14 of 194 members that voted against that decision. Since then, U.S.’ annual dues have exceeded $500 million. The nation will halt the arrears.

Washington is in favor of a future independent Palestinian state, but it claims the UNESCO should not have admitted Palestine until peace talks lead to complete negotiations. In 2016, a UNESCO resolution condemned Israeli’s policies at religious sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to The Washington Post.

Israel has been complaining in the past few years about the agency’s impartiality regarding discussions about cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

Israel leaving UNESCO, United States leaving UNESCO, Danny Danon
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said the agency had to pay the price for “discrimination against Israel.” Image credit: World Likud

The UNESCO recently designated the ancient city of Hebron with the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque as a “Palestinian World Heritage Site in Danger.” At September’s UN General Assembly, the prime minister accused the UNESCO of promoting “fake history.”

Best known for designating World Heritage Sites, the UN’s cultural agency is disappointed at the US’ announcement. The Americans provided 20 percent of UNESCO’s funding to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the globe.

“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,” expressed UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, as reported by The Post.

Future efforts to resume full membership are unpredictable under the Trump administration

President Reagan withdrew from the agency in 1984 due to what he considered a pro-Soviet Union bias. He said at the time that U.S. taxpayers should not continue to pay for policies that are contrary to the American values, justice, and common sense. The country rejoined in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration as part of efforts to promote international cooperation.

Washington will resume full membership only if the UNESCO makes substantial changes, State Department officials said Thursday. Nevertheless, the decision adds to a series of moves President Donald Trump has made to demonstrate that the U.S. does not need to remain involved with multi-lateral bodies.

He has made clear that America’s interests are ahead of international cooperation. Under the Trump administration, the United States has quitted the Transpacific Partnership trade negotiations and withdrawn from the Paris agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Also, the national government is considering whether to remain as a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council due to what it also views as anti-Israel policies.

Source: The Washington Post