Israel to follow U.S., quit UNESCO

UNESCO and Jerusalem

Israel will withdraw from the UN's cultural and education body after a United States decision to do the same on accusations of bias against the Jewish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday (Oct 12).

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Government is committed to continued United Kingdom membership of Unesco and to working with other member states in support of its important work".

"Just as we said in 1984 when President Reagan withdrew from UNESCO", Haley added, "U.S. taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense".

The state department said it would establish an observer mission at the Paris-based organisation to replace its representation.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the time called the decision an "affront to history" and announced that Washington would evaluate "the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO".

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

The organisation, which employs around 2,000 people worldwide, majority based in Paris, has always been the object of criticism over its use of resources and resolutions that have been perceived by Israel and other countries as biased.

"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".

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

"Universality is critical to UNESCO's mission to strengthen global peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity", she said in a statement.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova, who is Bulgarian, expressed "profound regret" at the decision and said the departure was a loss for "the United Nations family" and for multilateralism.

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. After he was elected but before he became president, Mr. Trump made an extraordinary intervention on the world stage by criticizing the Obama administration's decision not to block a United Nations resolution criticizing Israeli settlements. The Reagan administration withdrew from the organisation in 1984 - accusing the agency of corruption and an ideological bias towards the then Soviet Union - but the USA rejoined in 2002.

The US pulled out of Unesco in the 1980s because Washington viewed it as mismanaged and used for political reasons, then rejoined it in 2003.

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