Israel tells Biden administration it won’t oppose US return to UNESCO – report

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Israel has told the US State Department that it will not oppose the United States returning to the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), according to a report by Wednesday.

Israel and the United States left the organization under the Trump administration in 2019, citing alleged anti-Israel bias within the United Nations agency.

The Biden administration has asked Israel not to oppose its return to UNESCO, where the United States is seeking to counter China’s growing influence, the Axios news site reported, citing sources. American and Israeli.

Israel’s non-opposition will help the Biden administration gain congressional support for the move. Congress must approve the assignment of more than $500 million in debt to UNESCO for the United States to return as a full member, according to the report.

The Obama administration stopped funding UNESCO in 2011 when Palestine became a member due to laws prohibiting US funding of any international organization recognizing Palestinian statehood in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel. .

The agency’s chief executive, Audrey Azoulay, told Israel she would prevent anti-Israel bias and reassured US lawmakers of the move, according to the report.

Last year, Axios reported that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was also considering bringing Israel back into the agency.

Lapid argued that Israel’s withdrawal from the agency did not help solve the problem of anti-Israel bias, and instead diminished Jerusalem’s foreign policy influence, according to the report.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder urged Lapid to join the agency.

Last year, UNESCO re-elected Azoulay as director-general for a second term, with the former French culture minister hailing new confidence and unity in the organization. She won re-election with an overwhelming majority of agency votes.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay in Paris, France, November 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Since then, she has focused on restoring trust in UNESCO, seeking to bring Israel and the United States back into the organization.

For some, the return of the United States would be a welcome balance in the face of the growing importance and influence of China, which now accounts for more than 15% of total mandatory budgetary contributions.

In October 2017, just days after the US administration announced its withdrawal from UNESCO due, among other things, to its alleged obsession with Israel, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was following the lead. American.

The decision entered into force at the beginning of 2019.

Jerusalem and Washington ignored strenuous efforts by Azoulay to get the two countries to reconsider, including brokering compromises that delayed or softened anti-Israel resolutions.

Israel joined UNESCO on September 16, 1949, and is home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Masada, the Old City of Acre, the Bahai Temples in Haifa, and the “White City” of Tel Aviv. These sites remain on the list.

The United States withdrew from UNESCO earlier. The Reagan administration did so in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt, and used to advance Soviet interests. The United States joined in 2003 before leaving again under the Trump administration.

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