Israel says it succeeded in bid to withdraw from UNESCO by 2019, official says


(JTA) — Denying reports that Israel has missed the deadline for leaving UNESCO, its ambassador to the international body said it has successfully handed in its notice of departure effective 2019.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has agreed to view an email sent to her from the Israeli foreign ministry announcing the pullout effective before 2019, Carmel Shama-Hacohen was quoted as saying in an article published Friday by Haaretz.

It takes a year for the withdrawal to take effect.

Shama-Hacohen’s statement followed previous reports that, despite announcing its intention to leave the organization for its bias against the Jewish state, Jerusalem did not give notice in time for the membership to end in 2019.

Shama-Hacohen conceded to Haaretz that he and his aide had arrived with a written notice at the Paris UNESCO building when it was closed for the holiday and manned only by security guards, who refused to sign that they had received the document.

Azoulay agreed to view the email notice as official, so that “Israel, which has done every effort to complete the pullout alongside the United States, may not find itself still a member of this unfortunate organization, which has been hijacked by the Arab states and Islam,” Shama-Hacohen is quoted as saying.

In October, the United States announced that it would leave UNESCO, citing “continuing anti-Israel bias.” Six years ago, the United States cut off more than $80 million a year, about 22 percent of its entire budget for UNESCO, in reprisal for its acceptance of Palestine as a member. Israel also suspended its funding at that time.

Israel and the United States will remain as observer states of UNESCO, whose full name is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In recent years, UNESCO has passed resolutions rejecting Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, and placed the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Old City of Hebron in the State of Palestine on the list of world heritage sites in danger. It frequently refers to the Temple Mount only by its Arabic name, Al-Haram al-Sharif.

Between 2009-2014, UNESCO adopted 46 resolutions against Israel; 1 on Syria; and none on Iran, Sudan, North Korea, or any other country in the world.

In 2011, UNESCO elected Syria’s regime headed by Bashar Assad to its human rights committee.

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