Rabat – The United States has announced on Thursday its intention to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over what it perceives as the organization’s “continuous bias” against its long-time ally Israel.
The decision came amid an intense race between French Moroccan former minister of culture Audrey Azoulay and Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, the former Qatari minister of culture, to become the organization’s new General-Director.
The announcement was made by the US State Department. If the intention is executed, the US will cease being a member state and will turn into a permanent observer instead.
The Department informed UNESCO’s head Irina Bokova of the decision and Washington’s intention to become a permanent observer.
In a statement, the US Department explained the reasons behind Washington’s decision, saying it was “not taken lightly”.
“[This decision] and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” said the release.
The statement further noted that the US wants to keep working with the Paris-based organization “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 decision is expected to take full effect on December 31, 2018, pointed the release. Until that time, the US will remain “a full member” of the organization.
The US and Israel came to grips with UNESCO after the organizations made decisions seen as “pro-Palestinian”.
In July the organization’s World Heritage committee recognized the Ibrahimi Mosque, which the Israelis call the Cave of the Patriarchs and claim it is theirs — as part of the State of Palestine.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the ruling “delirious”.
In October 2011 Palestine was admitted into UNESCO, prompting the US to cut off its funding for the organization.