Israel to join US in quitting UNESCO

Israel has said it will join the US in pulling out of the UN’s cultural organisation UNESCO after US officials cited “anti-Israel bias”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US decision as “brave and moral”, a statement said.

The agency is known for designating world heritage sites such as Syria’s Palmyra and the US Grand Canyon.

Unesco head Irina Bokova earlier called the US withdrawal a matter of “profound regret”.

Why is the US withdrawing?

The US and UNESCO have actually been at loggerheads since 2011.

The key issue now, as with many US-UN disputes, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In October 2011, UNESCO admitted the Palestinian territories to the organization as an independent member-state called Palestine. This triggered a US law which cut off American funding for any organization that recognized an independent Palestine. The US had previously paid for 22 percent ($80 million) of UNESCO’s annual budget.

Finally, in 2013, after the US missed several rounds of payments to UNESCO, the organization suspended US voting rights in its core decision-making bodies. So the US hasn’t been a real UNESCO member for a while.

About UNESCO:

UNESCO is a United Nations organization that helps preserve historical and cultural sites worldwide.

It is a special multi-country agency, formed in 1945 and based in France, that promotes sex education and literacy as well as improving gender equality in countries around the world.

It is also known for its work to preserve cultural and heritage sites such as ancient villages, ruins and temples, and historic sites such as the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq, which at one point came under threat of being destroyed by the Islamic State.

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