Regev excluded from PM-led talks on Eurovision city
Culture and sports minister, who officials say could wreck chances of contest being held in Israel following her insistence that it be hosted in Jerusalem, says she has been fully apprised of talks’ details; ministers agree not to politicize the event after Argentina-Israel soccer debacle.
During the telephone conference, which was attended by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Communications Minister Ayoob Kara and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Netanyahu instructed that overall managerial responsibility for the event to be delegated entirely to the Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC or Kan) which will coordinate with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) on the event's planning.
Regev was accused by various officials of politicizing a pre-World Cup friendly between Argentina and Israel by moving it from Haifa to Jerusalem, causing an unnecessary conflation which ultimately led to the nixing of the much-anticipated game altogether.
Netanyahu's associates, who criticized the minister for moving the game to Jerusalem, forgot that the prime minister himself had sent a letter on March 12 to his friend, Argentine President Mauricio Macri, saying he had instructed the relevant authorities to prepare for hosting the game in Jerusalem, “our eternal capital.”
The majority of the talks were dedicated to Corporation Law. According to Mandelblit, if the government doesn't drop its efforts to split the IBC from its news division, it could lead to the Eurovision contest not being held in Israel, despite Israel's Netta Barzilai winning the 2018 contest, netting the country its fourth ever win and the right to host next year's contest.
A general consensus was reached at the meeting, likely as a result of lessons drawn from the Argentina spat, that political considerations should be kept out of the decision-making process for the Eurovision events, and that only the IBC should handle the matter.
According to a Channel 20 news report, the ministers also agreed not to interfere in the selection of the city in which the Eurovision is held and to refrain from insisting that it is hosted in Jerusalem, which the US, along with Guatemala and Paraguay, recently recognized as Israel’s capital before moving their embassies there from Tel Aviv.
Despite the reports, those present at the meeting claimed that the question of the host city was never even raised. “The prime minister has not yet been asked about the matter,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Regarding Regev’s apparent exclusion from the talks, the same statement insisted that “Minister Regev is fully updated,” a claim that was underpinned by a statement from the minister’s office.
“Minister Regev was updated about the discussion. The prime minister also spoke about the Eurovision with Minister Regev and the issue will likely be discussed later,” the statement said.
Netanyahu is expected to hold another round of discussions this week with the participation of Regev and Kahlon that will deal with the competition’s budget, including possibly the host city.
For Israel to be able to host the competition, a minimum of NIS 50 million will have to be deposited to the 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 discussions between Netanyahu and Regev are also expected to raise the question of the competition’s location. Regev sees little merit in hosting the Eurovision at all if it is not held in Jerusalem.
Other ministers maintain that the government should refrain from intervening in the matter and that the final location should be left to the IBC and the EBU. Representatives from both are expected to meet next week where the latter will receive four presentations on the cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat and Jerusalem.
With the Argentina match cancellation potentially setting a precedent, senior sources involved in next year’s singing competition say that “If politicians insist on intervening, there’s a real danger the Eurovision in Israel might not happen.”
For weeks, rumors have circulated about the possibility of the Eurovision being boycotted or cancelled altogether
During the first work meeting conducted regarding the Eurovision 2019 between the EBU and the IBC, 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 was almost cancelled there 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.