Israel will not interfere in Eurovision, Netanyahu promises


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that the government will not interfere in the 2019 Eurovision song contest, which Israel is scheduled to host.

The assurances were offered in a statement issued Monday by the Prime Minister’s Office following a meeting with some government ministers.

“The government (will) act in accordance with European Broadcasting Union rules,” the statement said. “However, there are open legal issues regarding the Eurovision stemming from matters of pending legislation that are yet before the courts. The Prime Minister instructed that the legal aspects of the matter be examined with the relevant officials before a decision is made.”

The legal issues appear to refer to the current status of the Kan public broadcaster, which was created last year and has temporary membership in the European Broadcasting Union, which sponsors Eurovision.

The government is set to divide Kan into two separate entities – an entertainment entity and a news division — which would void its membership in the EBU and prevent Israel from hosting or participating in future Eurovisions. The Supreme Court is considering the split but has not yet ruled on the issue.

The business news website The Marker reported that if the split is approved, the government would likely delay it by up to 18 months to allow Israel to host the song contest.

Meanwhile, Israel’s culture and sport minister, Miri Regev, reportedly has been demanding that Kan allow the government to be involved in producing the introductory segments for each artist for the 2019 contest. The segments are filmed in the host country and are an opportunity to publicize tourist opportunities, citing the public funds that will be used to host the contest.

Israel won the right to host the 2019 Eurovision after Netta Barzilai won the competition last month with the song “Toy.” At the time of her victory, Barzilai proclaimed that the competition would be held in Jerusalem. Regev echoed the sentiment and said earlier this month that Israel should withdraw as host Eurovision if it is not held in Jerusalem.

Four Israeli cities are said to meet the criteria to host Eurovision and likely will submit bids:  Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat.

Late last month, a message on the official Eurovision Twitter account warned fans not to book flights to Israel “just yet” and instead “keep an eye out for announcements on our official channels,” leading to speculation of disagreements between organizers and Israeli officials over various aspects of the competition, including matters connected to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

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