Israel to pull out of United Nations

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.

It says the withdrawal will take effect December 31, 2018.

Trump is not the first US President to withdraw support from UNESCO.

Heather Nauert, US state department spokesperson, said on Thursday the US would establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "instructed the Israeli Foreign Ministry to prepare for Israel to leave UNESCO in parallel with the US", according to his office. This past July, UNESCO's decision to recognize the ancient city of Hebron (aka al-Khalīl), located in the West Bank, as a Palestinian World Heritage site drew sharp criticism from the Trump administration, particularly from Nikki Haley.

The US has announced it will withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization, accusing the body of "anti-Israel bias".

The organisation, which employs around 2,000 people worldwide, a lot of them based in Paris, has always been the object of criticism over its use of resources and resolutions that have been perceived by Israel and other countries as biased.

At the time, Netanyahu said the "absurd" vote denied the Jewish connection to the city.

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Its head, Irina Bokova, earlier called the USA withdrawal a matter of "profound regret".

Currently, 23 places in the USA are on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, though nothing American appears in the organization's list of "intangible cultural heritage".

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.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova responded to the move in a lengthy statement, describing it as "a loss for multilateralism".

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

UNESCO is a specialized agency in the United Nations that encourages global peace and security through education, science, culture and communication. Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley has repeatedly denounced these actions, and said the USA was "evaluating" whether or not it should continue as a member of the organization. This is a loss to the United Nations family. It wasn't until 18 years later that it rejoined under the administration of George W. Bush.

Hegadorn said the US would remain a force at the cultural agency in the same way as it was from 1984, when the country withdrew under then-President Ronald Reagan.

  • Megan Austin