The Trump administration is just months away from withdrawing from the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the committee continues to advance anti-Israel policies.
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the final straw came in July 2017, when the UNESCO approved a resolution to designate Hebron in the West Bank, home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah are buried, a Palestinian World Heritage site.
At the time, Haley called the highly politicized body a “chronic embarrassment,” according to The Washington Post, adding, “Just as we said in 1984, when President Reagan withdrew from UNESCO, U.S. taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile toward our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “brave” and “moral,” arguing the committee has become “a theater of the absurd” because it “distorts” history.
On Wednesday, the UNESCO adopted two more resolutions, which describe the Tomb of the Patriarchs, as well as Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, as an “integral part of the Occupied Palestinian territory,” rebuking Israel for erecting a security fence to protect its borders.
The controversial resolutions were sponsored by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, The Jerusalem Post reported. The language was approved within minutes by the body’s 59-member executive committee, of which Israel is not a part.
French politician Audrey Azoulay, who was appointed director-general of the UNESCO in November 2017, has made an effort to appear less opposed to Israel’s interests, arguing the recently approved resolutions are actually a form of compromise between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Reuters.
Rather than being included in the main body of the UNESCO’s resolutions, the anti-Israel texts were moved to the annexes of the agreements. Azoulay touted the minute shift as a compromise because Israeli officials reportedly agreed to it, though their agreement is somewhat inconsequential because Israel is not a member of the executive committee, whose members actually vote on the resolutions.
The U.S., which helped establish the UNESCO after World War II, stopped funding the committee in 2011, when it admitted Palestine as a full member. By the end of 2018, the U.S. will have racked up around $600 million in unpaid dues.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision to withdraw from the UNESCO by Dec. 31, 2018, hoping the exit would push the body to adopt reforms so the U.S. could reenter the committee in the future.
“It sends a strong message that we need to see fundamental reform in the organization, and it raises everyone’s awareness about continued anti-Israel bias,” one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post.