Israel to leave UNESCO


Published: 2017-12-23 11:20

Last Updated: 2024-06-18 00:00

UNESCO works to preserve heritage. (Wikimedia Commons)
UNESCO works to preserve heritage. (Wikimedia Commons)

Israel has announced it will leave UNESCO, citing the it's “attacks” on the Jewish state. Following in the footsteps of the US, the move comes after 128 UN members voted to reject the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The decision was based on the UN-run agency’s “attempts to disconnect Jewish history from the land of Israel,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said, adding that the official letter of withdrawal will be submitted after Christmas, with Israel effectively leaving the organization by the end of 2018.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Israel’s envoy to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, to officially announce the withdrawal, Haaretz reports.

The move means Tel Aviv will be joining Washington, who announced in October that it will leave UNESCO due to its “continuing anti-Israel bias” and “the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

According to Haaretz, Netanyahu made the decision after a series of discussions centered around Israel’s desire to not leave the US isolated in the move.

“I obviously regret their departure … but this ’empty chair politics’ is not sustainable because the United States is also affected by everything that UNESCO does,” said UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay to the Associated Press, commenting on the US boycott.

Israel’s announcement comes after 128 UN member states voted on Thursday at the General Assembly to reject US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Nine states voted against the resolution and 35 nations abstained.

UNESCO is well known for its work to preserve heritage, including maintaining a list of World Heritage sites, and programmes to promote education in developing countries.

The US and Israel were angered in 2011 when UNESCO members granted Palestine full membership of the body.