The United States of America declared today that it would be withdrawing from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, announced the news this morning in a statement. However, this is not the first time that America has withdrawn from the organization.

Why America is withdrawing from UNESCO?

In the statement that Nauert gave regarding the decision to withdraw from the organization, she said that “This decision was not taken lightly and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears (debt) at UNESCO.” The two specific areas that she cited for the decision were the demand for foundational reform within UNESCO and their ongoing bias against close ally Israel.

Politico also reported that Nauert said America will remain part of the organization until its withdraw becomes official on December 31, 2018. Following this date, the U.S. will intend to stay involved with UNESCO as an observer state. According to the Washington Post, State Department officials hope the withdrawal will get the organization to make changes that will satisfy them.

Not the first time U.S. had left UNESCO

The United States played a key role in founding UNESCO in 1945 following the end of World War II. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan pulled the country out of the organization, citing that the group had a pro-Soviet Union, anti-Western bias.

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For the next 18 years, America was not part of UNESCO until President George W. Bush had the country rejoin back in 2002.

UNESCO's perceived anti-Israel actions

In 2011 under President Barack Obama, America drastically cut its funding to UNESCO by 22 percent as a reaction to Palestine being let into the organization as a member. According to Foreign Policy magazine, this has left the United States in debt to UNESCO on paying its membership dues by over $500 million. This was done as Israel was upset with Palestine being allowed in, so the U.S. as a close ally took action.

Last year, UNESCO made some decisions that have been perceived as anti-Israel. Reuters reported how the organization passed a resolution characterizing the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem as only a “Muslim holy site.” Jews, who refer to the site as the Temple Mount, got upset and Israel recalled its ambassador to the organization in retaliation.

The Atlantic also reported that UNESCO further ticked off Israel by declaring a part of the West Bank city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site. This led to Israel being upset that Jewish connections to holy sites in that area were not recognized and led a further suspending of ties with the organization.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Twitter following the announcement praising the move by America to withdraw from the organization. He then announced that Israel would be following in America's footsteps by also leaving.