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Israel joins U.S. in withdrawing from UNESCO over 'bias'

Israel joins U.S. in withdrawing from UNESCO over 'bias'

The organization has voted through several decision that have enraged Israel, particularly resolutions that appear to downplay or omit the importance of holy sites in Jerusalem and West Bank to Judaism.

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.

In the statement, Netanyahu hailed the U.S. move as a "courageous and moral decision".

Netanyahu said Thursday that UNESCO has become a "theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it".

The cultural aid agency - which seeks to coordinate global efforts in education, science and heritage remembrance - has been at odds with the USA since 2011, when it voted overwhelmingly to offer full membership to a state of Palestine.

"We deeply regret that the United States made a decision to leave UNESCO", the communique said. "Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment", Haley said in a statement.

Its head, Irina Bokova, earlier called the United States withdrawal a matter of "profound regret". It's best known for its World Heritage list. The site is regarded as sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, voiced "profound regret" over the decision, calling it a "loss to multilateralism".

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Israel, which remains a UNESCO member, said the move by the Trump administration marked a "new era" for the United Nations and showed there was a "price to pay for discrimination against Israel".

UNESCO chief Bokova defended her agency's reputation, noting its efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism — and saying that the Statue of Liberty is among the many World Heritage sites protected by the United Nations agency.

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

"Among other efforts, UNESCO is committed to building the capacity of various individuals and stakeholders to develop and amplify innovative responses against extremism; all while promoting the protection of freedom of expression, privacy and other fundamental freedoms", Bokova wrote in a CNN op-ed in September.

Trump pulled U.S. out of UNESCO.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for Unesco by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of Unesco by senior USA officials, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

UNESCO's executive board plans to select her successor Friday in a secret ballot.

She said the U.S. and Unesco matter to each other more than ever now because "the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security".

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