Israel has said it will join the US in pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation Unesco, after US officials cited "anti-Israel bias". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US decision as "brave and moral", a statement said. The agency is known for designating world heritage sites such as Syria's Palmyra and the US Grand Canyon. Unesco head Irina Bokova earlier called the US withdrawal a matter of "profound regret".
The US withdrawal will become effective at the end of December 2018 - until then, the US will remain a full member. The US will establish an observer mission at the Paris-based organisation to replace its representation, the state department said. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted he had instructed his foreign ministry to "prepare Israel's withdrawal... in parallel with the United States".
The decision follows a string of Unesco decisions that have drawn criticism from the US and Israel. In 2011 the US cut its funding to the agency in protest at its decision to grant full membership to the Palestinians. And last year, Israel suspended co-operation with Unesco after the agency adopted a resolution which made no reference to Jewish ties to a key holy site in Jerusalem. The resolution also criticised Israel's activities at holy places in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Then earlier this year, Mr Netanyahu condemned Unesco for declaring the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site. He accused Unesco of ignoring Judaism's ancient connection to the city, which includes the crypt where its matriarchs and patriarchs are buried.