Israel joins US in pulling out of Unesco after Netanyahu praises America for ‘brave and moral’ decision – The Independent
Israel has withdrawn from Unesco following America's decision to leave the United Nations body, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
"This is a brave and moral decision, because Unesco has become a theatre of absurd. Instead of preserving history, it distorts it," Mr Netanyahu said of the US's decision.
The Prime Minster said he had instructed the Israeli Foreign Ministry to prepare the country's withdrawal in parallel with the United States.
The US State Department had announced hours earlier that it would withdraw from Unesco and become a non-member observer state by the end of 2018.
In a statement, the State Department criticised Unesco for its "continuing anti-Israel bias", and spoke of a need for "fundamental reform".
"US 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," said Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Leiberman praised the US decision, calling it an "important step in the right direction by our biggest ally," according to Haaretz. He assailed Unesco as "an anti-Semitic and politically biased organisation," and claimed it had "lost its way".
But Unesco Director General Irina Bokova expressed “profound regret” at the US’s decision.
“Universality is critical to Unesco's mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity,” she said in a statement.
She added: "This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism."
Ms Bokova has yet to release a statement on Israel's withdrawal.
Israeli officials had previously condemned Unesco for passing resolutions they claimed would erase historical Jewish ties to Israel. One such resolution criticised Israel's activities at holy places in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and made no mention of Jewish ties to a holy site in the area.
Another resolution designated two historical sites near Jerusalem as belonging to the Palestinians. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Israel's Unesco committee, accused the agency of being a "political tool" in the wake of the decision.
"Unesco's resolution must be rejected, and our efforts to strengthen the city of our fathers increased," he said.
Mr Netanyahu suspended cooperation with the agency and announced a $1m cut to Israel's UN payments in response. The US suspended its own funding to the agency in 2011, after Palestine was admitted as a member.
Friday's decision will not affect existing Unesco world heritage sites in the US or Israel, or prevent them from submitting sites for consideration in the future, Unesco Media Chief George Papagiannis said. There are more than 30 world heritage sites between the two countries.