No political involvement in Eurovision negotiations, says Ministry of Communications deal

Singer Netta Barzilai waves to the audience at Altice Arena in Lisbon after Israel’s song “Toy” is announced winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. (Pedro Gomes/Getty Images)

JTA

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, and not the government of Israel, will conduct negotiations with officials from the Eurovision song contest.

The decision was announced Sunday by the Ministry of Communications, following a meeting between Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation CEO Eldad Koblenz and Communications Ministry Director General Nati Cohen.

During the meeting, “it was agreed that all the matters relating to the production of content and the other issues of production will include the contacts with the European Broadcasting Union, with the emphasis that there will be no government political involvement in these matters,” said a statement from the ministry.

The Israeli business daily Globes reported on Monday that the total cost to Israel of hosting Eurovision will run between $41 million and $53 million. Israel is required to hand over a guarantee of $14 million to the European Broadcasting Union, or EBU, in August, according to the report.

A delegation from Israel’s public broadcaster is scheduled to travel to Geneva to meet with EBU officials next week, according to Globes.

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The Israeli officials reportedly will present four cities as possible hosts for the contest, identified in local reports as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat. The cities will have to submit detailed bids in order to be considered, however. They reportedly are the only Israeli cities to meet Eurovision’s requirements, which include: a stadium with a capacity of at least 10,000; a press center for about 1,500 journalists; hotel capacity of about 3,000 rooms; round the clock public transportation and in the vicinity of an international airport.

Israel won the right to host the 2019 Eurovision after singer Netta Barzilai won last month’s competition with the song “Toy.” At the time of her victory, Barzilai proclaimed that the competition would be held in Jerusalem, which was echoed by Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev.

Israel previously has hosted the Eurovision contest twice before in Jerusalem, a city that most countries do not recognize as Israel’s capital.

But Jerusalem as a venue has become increasingly controversial, including early calls for a boycott of next year’s song contest. Ynet reported Wednesday that Eurovision organizers made clear to Israeli officials that if the location of next year’s competition became too much of a political football, it would move the venue.

Last week Argentina’s national soccer team canceled a friendly match in Jerusalem over pressure and physical threats from pro-Palestinian groups due to its location. The match had been moved from Haifa to Jerusalem.

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