Israel hailed a decision this week by the United States to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a “courageous and ethical decision because UNESCO has become a theater of the absurd, and instead of preserving history, distorts it.”
In a statement following the close of the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah late Thursday night, Netanyahu said he instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from UNESCO as well, in parallel with the United States.
The U.S. State Department had notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova earlier this week (October 12) of America’s 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 U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” said Heather Nauert, State Department spokesperson, in a statement sent to media.
“The United States indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state,” Nauert added, “in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”
The U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO also won’t take immediate effect: it doesn’t actualize until December 31, 2018, in accordance with Article II (6) of the UNESCO Constitution, Until that time, the U.S. remains a full member.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said in response that UNESCO has become “a battlefield for Israel bashing and has disregarded its true role and purpose.”
He called the U.S. decision “a turning point for UNESCO, adding that the organization’s “absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel” have consequences.
“Today is a new day at the UN, where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel,” Danon said. “The United States stands by Israel and is a true leader for change at the UN. The alliance between our two countries is stronger than ever. “