Israel has filed notice to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) alongside the United States. Israel has blasted UNESCO in recent years over the organisation’s criticism of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and its decision to grant full membership to Palestine in 2011. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said on Friday that she deeply regretted Israel’s decision to withdraw.
“A member of UNESCO since 1949, Israel has a rightful place inside the United Nations agency that is dedicated to education, culture and science,” Azoulay noted. Both Israel and the US – which filed its own withdrawal notice in October, noting that it would instead seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO – will officially cease membership as of December 31, 2018.
In announcing its withdrawal, the US Department of State noted “anti-Israel bias” and “the need for fundamental reform” within the organisation. Shortly afterwards, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would pull out of UNESCO on the grounds that the body had become “a theatre of the absurd”.