Israel misses 2017 deadline to wthdraw from UNESCO


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Despite announcing that it would inform UNESCO of its decision to withdraw from the agency by the end of the year, Israel has been unable to file the necessary papers on time.

The offices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization located in Paris are closed until after the New Year holiday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday instructed the director general of the Foreign Ministry to submit a formal letter of withdrawal to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, the agency’s first Jewish head.

“I think that this is appropriate, given this organization’s biased, one-sided and absurd attitude toward us, and against the background of the U.S.’s strong stand at the U.N., which we welcome,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday.

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It takes a year for the withdrawal request to go into effect, which would have put Israel’s request into effect at the end of 2018 along with the United States if it could get the necessary paperwork in on time.

“Yes, the organization is closed until next year, but the letter will be transmitted in time. Even if I have to climb over the fence, I am still in the age and physical condition allowing me to do so,” Israeli ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, told the Times of Israel on Wednesday.

The announcement of Israel’s withdrawal from the agency comes after the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution rejecting any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the wake of the pronouncement by President Donald Trump two weeks ago.

In recent years, UNESCO has passed resolutions rejected 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.

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