The US Is Leaving UNESCO - Again

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Citing in part its "anti-Israel bias" and otherwise complaining of costs, the Trump administration announced Thursday that the US will withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations agency focused on education, science, and culture.

The United States pulled out of UNESCO in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan but rejoined the body in 2003 when President George W. Bush was in power.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "instructed the Israeli Foreign Ministry to prepare for Israel to leave UNESCO in parallel with the USA", according to his office.

For President Trump and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the recognition of world heritage sites in the Palestinian territories, like Hebron and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the 2015 resolution and another in 2016, showed an anti-Israel bias.

"This is a fearless and moral decision", Netanyahu said in a statement, "because UNESCO has become a theatre of the absurd and because instead of preserving history, it distorts it".

Trump's predecessor Barack Obama slashed USA funding to the organization in 2011 after it voted to accept Palestine as a full member-state.

The Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova said that she "deeply regrets" the US decision. "Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment", Haley said in a statement.

"UNESCO is about promoting our ideals and values through culture, education and science", France's United Nations ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters in NY, adding that "we need an America that stays committed to world affairs". It referred to the holy site only using Muslim names and prompted angry reactions from Israeli politicians.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres expressed deep regret over the USA decision to leave UNESCO, according to Deputy UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave formal notification of the USA withdrawal on the grounds of "continuing anti-Israel bias" and "mounting arrears".

Travelers are likely to be most familiar with Unesco through its world heritage sites such as the Grand Canyon National Park and Yellowstone National Park in the US.

But the United States has at times had an ambivalent relationship with the Paris-based organization.

UNESCO was established after World War II to help promote the free flow of information.

"The universal nature of UNESCO's activities is important in protecting peace and ensuring worldwide security in the face of violence and hatred", Bokova said in her statement. This is a loss to the United Nations family. "This is a loss for multilateralism". "We deeply regret that the United States chose to leave UNESCO", the communique said.

She argued that Unesco is "so relevant to the political agenda of the American government it's incredible", citing its work on trying to prevent violent extremism through educational and cultural programs in the developing world.

Britain has confirmed its continued commitment to membership of Unesco after the U.S. announced it was withdrawing from the United Nations cultural body.

"At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack", she said.