Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare for Israel’s withdrawal from UNESCO, just a day after the US announced it would leave the international organisation in December 2018, according to Haaretz.
Netanyahu welcomed the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw stating: “This is a brave and moral decision, because UNESCO has become a theatre of the absurd. Instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
Yesterday the US confirmed that it would be withdrawing, explicitly citing the reason as UNESCO’s anti-Israel resolutions. It will instead establish an observer mission at the Paris-based organisation to replace its representation.
“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” the US State Department said in a statement.
However Israel appeared to leave the door open to reconciliation with the UN cultural body, announcing that the change would take at least a year, and would be dependent on UNESCO’s future actions.
“If the United States changes its mind about UNESCO within another year and two months because of a change in the organisation’s behaviour following the election of a new director general, Israel may eventually decide not to withdraw,” a senior Israeli official said.
UNESCO has voted on a number of resolutions favouring Palestinians in the past year, which Israel and the US have condemned.
Last year, UNESCO voted in favour of a resolution that denied any connection between Al-Aqsa Mosque and Judaism; Israel relies on such a claim in recognising the Muslim holy site as the “Temple Mount”.
Israelis were angered once again in July following the designation of the Ibrahimi Mosque, a site which is stormed regularly by illegal Israeli settlers, as a Palestinian World Heritage Site under threat from Israel.
In response, Israel and the US have cut funding to UNESCO on multiple occasions, accusing it of “anti-Semitism”.