At midnight Monday, the US and Israel made good on a pledge to exit a United Nations agency frequently criticized for its bias against Jews and Israel.
Both nations had said they would withdraw from UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and the promise became official with the beginning of 2019.
The US stopped paying dues to UNESCO under the Obama administration in 2011 after it became the first UN body to recognize a state of "Palestine." President Trump went further in October 2017, saying the US would pull out of UNESCO altogether. The Netanyahu government in Israel followed the US lead.
Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon decried UNESCO's actions against Israel, saying, "UNESCO is a body that continues to re-write history, among other things, by attempting to erase the Jewish connection to Jerusalem."
In 2016, the Palestinian Authority, backed by Arab states, succeeded in passing UNESCO resolutions that essentially denied any Jewish claims to the Temple Mount and Western Wall, two of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith. Throughout the resolutions, they were referred to by their Muslim names.
Danon added, "Israel will not be a member of an organization dedicated to action against it and which has been a tool manipulated by Israel's enemies."
When the US announced its decision to pull out nearly 15 months ago, then-US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert issued a statement which read in part, "The decision was not taken lightly and reflects US concerns with maintaining arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO."
Nauert is President Trump's choice to be the next US Ambassador to the United Nations, succeeding Nikki Haley.