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1 Jan, 2019 10:58

UNESCO’s turn: Washington & Tel Aviv ditch international body over ‘anti-Israel bias’

UNESCO’s turn: Washington & Tel Aviv ditch international body over ‘anti-Israel bias’

The US – followed by Israel – has left UNESCO, citing a “pro-Palestinian bias” allegedly persisting within the agency. Recently, Washington has been eager to ditch any institutions and deals which supposedly harm its interests.

The decision of the US took effect late Monday, closely followed by Tel Aviv, which kicked in on the first day of 2019.

The withdrawal of the US and Israel from UNESCO is hardly 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, who have repeatedly made accusations against the UN cultural body.

“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’ – and often Israel’s – interests appears to be a trend in Washington under the Trump administration.

In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran, citing “flaws” with the deal and opening the way to imposing sanctions. While the move alarmed European nations, which tried – and failed – to stop the US from leaving the agreement, the decision was enthusiastically hailed by top Israeli officials.

Also on rt.com US leaves 'hypocritical and self-serving' UN Human Rights Council

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” that displays “unending hostility towards Israel.” While the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, described the US’ withdrawal as “disappointing, if not really surprising, news,” the decision was, again, lauded by Tel Aviv.

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 told RT, expressing doubts over the president’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.”

However, it remains a question whether Trump’s move to withdraw is only a temporary one, as it is actually in line with the policies of his predecessors. In 2011, both the US and Israel stopped paying their dues to UNESCO after Palestine was voted in as a member state. In 2013, Washington and Tel Aviv were stripped off their voting rights over unpaid dues.

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