Israel to pull out of United Nations

Ambassador Phạm Sanh Châu the Vietnamese candidate for the position of UNESCO Director-General. — VNA  VNS

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voiced "profound regret" on Thursday over the United States' decision to withdraw from the agency.

A press statement from the State Department says the decision was also based on "the need for fundamental reform in the organization" as well as stacking up bills the US owes UNESCO.

The U.S. will withdraw on December 31, 2018, but will remain active in the group as a nonmember observer.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also praised Washington's move as heralding "a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel". It's best known for its World Heritage list.

The organization has a long history of taking anti-Israel measures, and supporting resolutions against the Jewish state.

She recalled that in 2011, after the suspension of Washington's financial participation in the organization, she said that "UNESCO has never been more important to the United States, and the United States has never been so important to UNESCO".

Ms. Bokova, in a telephone interview, said she "thought the decision was coming but why now, I don't know, in the midst of elections" for a new director to replace her.

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department's statement Thursday was unexpected.

Tensions have flared again in recent years: in 2011, the United States stopped funding the agency after UNESCO voted to admit the Palestinian Authority as a full member; two years later, the U.S. lost its vote due to these financial cuts.


The U.S. joined UNESCO at its creation in 1945.

She said the US pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for worldwide alliances.

The US claims it's leaving the organization in protest of UNESCO's anti-Israel bias.

The third round saw the breakthrough of French candidate Audrey Azouley, who secured 18 out of 58 votes of the UNESCO Executive Board, sharing top spot with Qatari candidate Hammad bin Al-Kawari.

Trump pulled United States out of UNESCO.

But in addition to the decision to admit the Palestinians in 2011, it has been the scene of repeated diplomatic flare-ups after Arab countries succeeded in passing a number of resolutions critical of Israel.

In July, the agency again delighted Palestinians when its members declared the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank an endangered World Heritage site - described as "another delusional decision" by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Among other efforts, UNESCO is committed to building the capacity of various individuals and stakeholders to develop and amplify innovative responses against extremism; all while promoting the protection of freedom of expression, privacy and other fundamental freedoms", Bokova wrote in a CNN op-ed in September.

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