Foreign Minister, Riyad Malki, said that the US decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the pretext it was biased against Israel is regrettable.
The US decision, which was followed by Israel, came after UNESCO voted last week in favor of two Palestinian resolutions on Jerusalem and education.
The US opposes any move by UN bodies to recognize Palestine as a state, insisting that this must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal.
Malki said in a statement, “It is a regrettable decision and a negative precedent as well as an attempt to politicize the work of this important organization. What is unfortunate in this decision is its wrong rational and justification as well as the irresponsible and erroneous accusations of UNESCO that it is anti-Israel. The US deliberately confuses criticism of Israel, the occupying Power, for its documented violations of the regulations and principles of international law with hostility and prejudice, which is not true in the case of Israel.”
Malki stressed that “granting Israel absolute impunity from accountability and submission to legal proceedings applied to all other countries abiding by the law is dangerous and misleading and will be counterproductive. UNESCO’s decisions reflect the collective will and the opinion of the majority of its member states and no single state has the right to challenge or change these decisions. To oppose UNESCO’s decisions that express the policies of sovereign states is undemocratic and unacceptable.”
Malki said that Palestine will continue to work toward promoting UNESCO’s objectives in fields of education, cultural diversity, science and peace-building, “which are not political goals.” He added, Palestine, “would not apologize or be afraid to shoulder its responsibilities toward the best interests of its people, along with our national and international responsibilities,” promising to remain an active participate in different multilateral forums.
UNESCO’s director general, Irina Bokova, said, “At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the US to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack.”
Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu, welcomed the US move saying it “is a brave and moral decision, because UNESCO has become a theater of absurd, instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
Secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouti, said, “Sooner or later they will see Palestine in every UN agency. Will the US respond to that by withdrawing from the WHO or the World Intellectual Property Organization? They will be hurting only themselves.”
In 2011 the US cancelled its budget contribution to UNESCO in protest against the admission of Palestine as a full member.
The withdrawal will take effect on 31 December 2018.