For President Trump and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the recognition of world heritage sites in the Palestinian territories, like Hebron and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the 2015 resolution and another in 2016, showed an anti-Israel bias. Netanyahu said Thursday that UNESCO has become a "theater of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it".
The Israeli leader called the USA decision to exit UNESCO "brave and moral", according to a statement.
The US is withdrawing from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, the US State Department announced on Thursday, citing anti-Israel bias and mounting membership dues owed to the global body. Unesco was dependent on the United States for 22 percent of its budget, then about $70 million a year.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "instructed the Israeli Foreign Ministry to prepare for Israel to leave UNESCO in parallel with the US", according to his office.
The U.S. move underscores the scepticism expressed by President Donald Trump about the need for the U.S.to remain engaged in multi-lateral bodies. In the USA, listed sites include the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall, as well as national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.
The relationship is now set to end December 31, 2018, and the United States will remain a full member of UNESCO until then.
The withdrawals are a severe blow for the Paris-based organisation which began work in 1946 and is known for designating World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and Sceilig Mhichíl in Co Kerry.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave formal notification of the USA withdrawal on the grounds of "continuing anti-Israel bias" and "mounting arrears". It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.
Chris Hegadorn, the U.S. Charge d'Affaires and ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the decision to pull out was linked to "the unfortunate politicization of the mandate of UNESCO, where anti-Israel bias has been a major factor and something the U.S. has been struggling to address".
Behind them in the secret ballot was an Egyptian career diplomat, Moushira Khattab, with 13 votes, and Tang Qian of China with five, according to results posted on Unesco's website. France's U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, had urged the United States to remain in UNESCO this week, saying the United States "must stay committed to world affairs". It wasn't until 18 years later that it rejoined under the administration of George W. Bush.
Haley called the decision to classify the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a UNESCO World Heritage Site "just the latest in a long line of foolish actions, which includes keeping Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protestors".
The US was a founding member of UNESCO.