The US has announced that it will be retreating from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), citing anti-Israel bias and mounting membership dues owed to the international body.
“Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the US decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO, “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” State Department spokeswomen Heather Nauert said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is also planning to remove themselves from the body, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.
In the statement, Netanyahu hailed the US move as a “courageous and moral decision.” He said UNESCO had “turned into a theatre of the absurd; instead of preserving history, it twists it.”
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres expressed deep regret over the US
In a statement released via her official Twitter handle, Bokova called the withdrawal “a loss to UNESCO. This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism.”
The US stopped paying dues to the international body in late 2011 after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership and now owes approximately $550 million, a State Department spokesperson said.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Syria, along with the Hebron’s Old City, were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in July, despite opposition from the United States and Israel.
The site is regarded as sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Israel has accused UNESCO of making a politically motivated move; part of what it says is an attempt to deny the Jewish character and heritage of certain key sites in the Holy Land.