US and Israel withdraw from UNESCO citing "anti-Israel" bias
Israel has joined the US in withdrawing from UN cultural organization UNESCO. Washington cited UNESCO's "anti-Israel bias" for its decision. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that he had ordered his foreign ministry to "prepare Israel's withdrawal... in parallel with the United States" and praised America's decision as "brave and moral." Earlier, UNESCO's head Irina Bokova called the US' withdrawal a subject of "profound regret."
UNESCO is tasked with preserving heritage through its World Heritage Site list and promoting education and development goals such as equality for women. The US' withdrawal from UNESCO will become effective from the end of December 2018. The US State Department said its representation would be replaced with an observer mission. Israel hailed the US' decision and called UNESCO a "theatre of the absurd."
In 2011, the US was angered after UNESCO member countries granted full membership to Palestine, a move vehemently opposed by Israel. The US also withdrew its funding to the organization in 2011. America staunchly opposes any attempts by UN bodies to recognize Palestinian statehood. In 1984, the US withdrew from UNESCO, accusing it of being politically left-wing and financially irresponsible. It re-joined in 2003.
UNESCO chief Bokova said the US' withdrawal is a loss to the "UN family". She admitted that in recent years, "politicisation" had "taken its toll" on UNESCO. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he "deeply regretted" America's decision. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) hailed the move saying UNESCO has targeted Israel unfairly. Russia admitted UNESCO has been politicized but called the news "flabbergasting."
The Palestinian National Initiative political party slammed the development, saying it signals America's "complete and total bias" towards Israel. "This is going to have a very harmful effect on the idea of the US being a mediator between the Palestinians and the Israelis."