UNESCO Votes to Readmit United States After Withdrawal Over Anti-Israel Bias
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Friday voted to readmit the United States after it had withdrawn over the body’s anti-Israel bias.
The organization’s 193 members voted 132 to 10 with 15 abstentions to allow the US to return after the US committed to repaying the $619 million debt at that it owes to UNESCO. Countries voting against the US readmission included China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Russia and the Palestinians.
The US will once again be UNESCO’s largest funder after it cut off funding in 2011 when Palestine was admitted to UNESCO as a full member. Under the provisions of a pair of laws passed in the early 1990s, that admission prevented the Obama administration from funding UNESCO.
The Trump administration then withdrew from UNESCO entirely after it adopted two resolutions on Jerusalem that critics, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said amounted to a denial of a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. Israel also withdrew from UNESCO at the same time.
The US will now provide 22% of UNESCO’s annual budget and pay back its arrears over time. UNESCO said Friday that the US will also make voluntary contributions to programs including Holocaust remembrance and the protection of journalists.
UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay welcomed the US return to the organization.
“With the United States of America, UNESCO will have more resources to implement its mandate in education, science, culture and information,” she wrote on Twitter. “It will help us better support students, scientists, academics, artists, educators, journalists around the world.”
Since taking over the organization in 2017, Azoulay, who is Jewish, has been able to find consensus between Israel, Jordan the Palestinians on subsequent resolutions and has said she believes the US will remain in UNESCO regardless of who wins the 2024 Presidential election.
In an interview with Al-Monitor on Tuesday, Azoulay said that Israel would also be welcomed back to UNESCO if it decided to rejoin.
“If Israel expresses its interest in coming back, it will be the same thing [as for the Americans]. The door is open,” Azoulay said. “When Israel announced its departure from UNESCO at the end of 2017, just after the Americans, they said that it was not what they wanted, but they were following the Americans on that. Now, there is another government in Israel. It is for them to decide.”