Following the cancellation of a friendly soccer match between Israel and Argentina, attention has turned to the Eurovision Song Contest, which next year is set to be held in Jerusalem, as anti-Israel voices call on people to boycott the event.
For weeks, rumors have circulated about the possibility of the Eurovision being boycotted or cancelled altogether after Israel's Netta Barzilai won the 2018 contest in May, netting the country its fourth ever win and the right to host next year's events.
For Israel to be able to host the competition, a minimum of NIS 50 million will have to be deposited to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), since it is one of the basic requirements for any host nation. In case of a cancellation, the EBU has the right to foreclose the deposit.
The events surrounding the cancellation of the pre-World Cup Argentina match have triggered further concern among the producers of Eurovision in Jerusalem, fearing that the latest cancellation could set a precedent for years to come.
Senior sources involved in the production say that “If politicians insist on intervening, there’s a real danger the Eurovision in Israel might not happen.”
During the first work meeting conducted regarding the Eurovision 2019, between the EBU and the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (IBC)–who plan to produce the event, it was made clear to the Israeli side that the Europeans are not willing to tolerate political intervention of any kind.
“They brought up Ukraine as an example, where the song contest has almost been cancelled because of similar concerns and we should be really careful. The IBC promised there would be no governmental intervention”, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
During the meeting, the request was brought up by the EBU to have at least two cities put forth as part of the tender for the Eurovision Song Contest. A key demand by the Europeans, however, was that the cities in question be “non-divisive” locations—an apparent hint that Jerusalem was being ruled out as the host city from the outset.
“Our goal is to avoid countries boycotting the location of the event”, the European representatives told their Israeli counterparts.
So far, not a single city besides Jerusalem has officially requested to host the song contest and the deadline for filing the request is in August. However, an extension for filing a request to allow other cities to put in their tender could be granted for another month, should it become necessary.
Another issue that was underlined by the Europeans is the need to have an events hall which contains at least 10,000 seats and 3,000 hotel rooms with accommodating transportation services available 24 hours a day.
Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev was asked Wednesday about the political intervention in Eurovision 2019.
“I have to tell you one thing: Jerusalem is not a political issue. Jerusalem is the source of pride for the Israeli state and for the Jewish people all over the world ... We don’t have a reason to either apologize for it or keep explaining it," she said.
"When we get to the Eurovision Song Contest, we’ll talk about it”, she added during a speech explaining her stance on the cancellation of the Argentina-Israel match.
Next month another meeting between the EUB and the ICB is due to take place where the organizational process will be discussed more in depth.
Meanwhile, the cancellation of the Argentina match serves as a warning to Israeli politicians ahead of the Eurovision 2019, that a political intervention might lead to the cancellation of the event altogether.