Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Israel to join USA in quitting Unesco

Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris France Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris France. Francois Mori AP
Erik Tate | 15 October, 2017, 01:14

According to Foreign Policy, France's United Nations ambassador, Fran├žois Delattre, hoped the USA would stay within UNESCO.

Russian media outlet RIA reported that the ministry slammed the United States and Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia regrets Israel's decision.

"The United States indicated to the Director-General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US 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", said the United States Department of State in a recently issued statement.

Rex Tillerson had made the decision weeks ago, informing French president Emmanuel Macron during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in NY, reports Foreign Policy.

While most famous for designating various places World Heritage Sites, UNESCO also sponsors a range of global cultural and intellectual activities.

The U.S. Department of State announced in a Thursday statement that the U.S. had withdrawn from UNESCO and seek to establish a "permanent observer mission to UNESCO". It's also why the Palestinians, frustrated with the failure of US-sponsored negotiations to produce a peace agreement, pushed to be recognized as a UNESCO member-state: It was a venue in which they stood a real chance at gaining symbolic statehood status, and thus in theory putting more diplomatic pressure on Israel to sit down and negotiate.

UNESCO is the first United Nations agency to have admitted Palestine as a full member in 2011.

In 2011, after UNESCO granted membership to Palestine, the Obama administration (reluctantly) cut USA funding to the organization in accordance with a law passed in the 1990s that requires the U.S.to defund any United Nations agency that grants the Palestinians full voting membership. Nevertheless, the decision adds to a series of moves President Donald Trump has made to demonstrate that the USA does not need to remain involved with multi-lateral bodies. In 2002, George W Bush joined UNESCO again, and in 2011, Barack Obama cut most United States funding to UNESCO due to the organization's recognition of Palestine.

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She also said UNESCO is in need of fundamental reform.

The US too lost its voting rights at the same time and has not paid some $80 million a year in dues since 2011.

"I'm here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel", Haley said in February.

Malki stressed that "granting Israel absolute impunity from accountability and submission to legal proceedings applied to all other countries abiding by the law is unsafe and misleading and will be counterproductive". "Expect lots and lots more UNESCO resolutions bashing Israel, for a start".

The critical juncture Fran├žois Delattre referred to may be the selection of UNESCO's new director-general.

What might have hastened this withdrawal decision was the July declaration of the ancient city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with its Tomb of the Patriarchs, as an endangered World Heritage Site.

What has been the reaction in the USA and around the world?

The US has long used UNESCO as a stage for political gestures: In 1984, the Ronald Reagan withdrew the US from UNESCO, accusing it of being pro-Soviet, anti-Israel, and anti-free market. And after the USA made that announcement, Israel followed suit and withdrew from UNESCO as well.

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