Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
October 13th, 2017
The United States it is pulling out of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency (UNESCO) because of what Washington sees as its blatant anti-Israel bias and a need for “fundamental reform” to curb corruption in the agency.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel plans to follow suit.
While the Trump administration had been expected to withdraw from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department’s statement caught the Islamic-nation dominated United Nations off guard. The Paris-based agency’s executive board is in the midst of choosing a new chief — with Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari leading the heated election.
Outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova said he felt “profound regret” at the decision and attempted to defend UNESCO’s reputation.
Bokova said the U.S.’s planned departure was a loss for “the United Nations family” and for multilateralism. The U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now with “the rise of violent extremism and terrorism,” she said.
The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The United Nations claims the U.S. now owes about $550 million in unpaid dues.
In a statement, the State Department said the decision will take effect Dec. 31, 2018, and that the U.S. will seek a “permanent observer” status instead reported AP News. It cited U.S. belief in “the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”
Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel also plans to withdraw from the agency, saying it had become a “theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
Israel has been disrespected multiple times by resolutions that diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and have shown blatant pro-Muslim bias by naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.
Netanyahu praising Trump’s decision as “brave and moral,” and said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare for Israel’s withdrawal from the Muslim-dominated, corrupt organization in concert with the Americans.
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.”
“The United States stands by Israel and is a true leader for change at the U.N,” Danon said. “The alliance between our two countries is stronger than ever.”
U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and it was not discussed with other countries. The officials were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue.
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called UNESCO’s July designation of Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory the latest of many “foolish actions” that had made the agency “a chronic embarrassment.”
Haley also criticized UNESCO for “keeping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protesters”
This it not the first time the U.S. has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003.
The State Department informed Bokova it intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.
“We will be carefully watching how the organization and the new director-general steers the agency,” Charge d’Affaires Chris Hegadorn, the ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO, told The Associated Press. “Ideally, it steers it in way that U.S. interests and UNESCO’s mandate will converge.”
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