The United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), citing the U.N. agency's "anti-Israel bias."
The U.S. State Department alerted UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on Oct. 12 of its decision to withdraw from the organization, requesting to remain only as an observer. Its withdrawal will take effect on Dec. 31, 2018.
Jewish leaders have repeatedly criticized decisions made by UNESCO, which they believe have amounted to attacks on their religious heritage. This included resolutions passed by the organization that designated major Jewish landmarks—including the Western Wall and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron—as belonging to Palestine.
On July 7, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the UNESCO resolution making the historic tomb a Palestinian site.
"Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah—our patriarchs and matriarchs," Netanyahu said in a statement, referring to the move as "another delusional UNESCO resolution."
The United States designated the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist organization in 1987. Under its former chairman, Yasser Arafat, the PLO and its affiliates carried out numerous terrorist attacks, including the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and one German police officer during the 1972 Munich Olympics, by PLO-affiliate group Black September. In 1994, under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian National Authority (PA) became the recognized governing organization of the Palestinians. To this day, the PA gives monetary rewards to the families of individuals who commit acts of terror against Israelis.
Nauert noted that the policy of not funding U.N. organizations that accept the Palestinians predates the Trump administration. "We were in arrears to the tune of $550 million or so," Nauert said. "The question is, do we want to pay that money, and do we want to pay more money going forward, when there is actually a law that says the U.N. entity that accepts Palestinians as a member state can no longer receive U.S. funding?"
The second part of the decision to withdraw from UNESCO, Nauert said, is that "we’d like to see overall U.N. reform." With U.N. entities such as UNESCO, "we’d like to see the politics kept out of it, and we see with this anti-Israel bias that’s long documented on the part of UNESCO that that needs to come to an end."