The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], citing “anti-Israel bias” persisting within the UN agency. The US decision took effect late Monday, closely followed by Israel, which kicked in on the first day of 2019.
The withdrawal of the US and Israel from UNESCO is not surprising, as both have had long-standing tensions with the agency. Washington’s move was made public in October 2017 when it announced the withdrawal, citing “concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”
A similar evaluation was produced by Israeli officials.
“It is corrupted and manipulated by Israel’s enemies, and continually singles out the only Jewish state for condemnation. We are not going to be a member of an organization that deliberately acts against us,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told The Times of Israel on Monday.
Leaving any international organization that does not serve the US interests appears to be a trend in Washington under the Trump administration.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran, citing “flaws” with the deal and opening the way to imposing sanctions.
In June 2018, the US also pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, with then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley branding it a “hypocritical and self-serving organization.” The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, described the US’ withdrawal as “disappointing, if not really surprising, news.”
The decision to leave UNESCO, as well as other international bodies, is likely to be reversed after Trump leaves office, former US Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith said, expressing serious doubts over Trump’s re-election in 2020.
“This is an entirely political step. It has to be pointed out that the irony of it is that these institutions – the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the Human Rights Council – were created by the United States, or the United States took the lead and now they withdraw.”
So far, the Trump administration has expressed a willingness to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state.”