Report: U.S. UNESCO Pullout Caught Israel Off Guard

YERUSHALAYIM -
The main building of the UNESCO headquarters is seen through the Globe in Paris, France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The U.S. decision to pull out of UNESCO last week was not coordinated with Israel and came as a surprise to Israeli diplomats, Haaretz reported on Sunday, citing official sources.

Although the American exit from UNESCO had been under discussion with the Israelis and publicized in the media for weeks, the Trump administration had not notified their allies prior to the actual move last Thursday, according to the report.

Haaretz quoted senior officials in Yerushalayim who said that Israel first learned of the U.S. decision from a posting on the Foreign Policy website late Wednesday night.

Thus alerted to the news, Israeli diplomats at the embassy in Washington, the U.N. and at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters sought clarification from the Americans. Confirmation was forthcoming late Thursday morning that the State Department would announce the departure from UNESCO later in the day.

Senior U.S. officials also confirmed that Yerushalayim had been left out of the decision-making process on an issue of acute concern.

“The deliberative process that led to the decision to withdraw was an internal U.S. government process and was not discussed with any non-USG entities prior to the secretary’s decision,” an official said, using an abbreviation for the U.S. government.

Israel hurried to praise the American decision on Thursday night, adding that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had directed the Foreign Ministry “to begin to prepare” for the possibility that Israel would leave UNESCO together with the United Sates.

The Israeli paper said that its report was based on interviews with four senior Israeli and American officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.