Culture Minister Miri Regev proclaimed on Thursday that if Israel can’t host the Eurovision in Jerusalem next year, it should not host it at all.
Speaking to Kan’s Reshet Bet on Thursday morning, Regev said that “I will recommend to the government that the Eurovision – if it can’t be in Jerusalem – we shouldn’t host it.”
The culture minister added that “It costs Israel NIS 50 million. It is designed to market the country. It’s a beautiful music show that brings every country here... I think personally that if the Eurovision won’t be in Jerusalem, it would be wrong to invest NIS 50m. of public funds. The State of Israel’s capital is Jerusalem and we should not be ashamed of it.”
Regev was reacting in part to unconfirmed reports from Wednesday that the European Broadcasting Union requested that the Eurovision be held in a “non-divisive location.”
But Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said on Thursday that there is no question the Eurovision will be held in Israel.
“I want to make it clear here, the same way I made it clear to [host broadcaster] Kan, that the government – and myself personally – do not have any political designs on the competition,” Kara said in a video message he posted on social media. In sharp contrast to Regev, Kara said he intends to fully cooperate with and meet the demands of the European Broadcasting Union. “The Eurovision will be held in Israel. I will not let any official harm the manner in which the Eurovision is determined.”
Since Israel’s win at the Eurovision earlier this year, Kara and Regev have sparred over responsibilities and budget for next year’s contest. Kara did not mention Regev by name in his statement, but his message was a clear counter to the culture minister’s more fiery rhetoric.
On Thursday, the Kan public broadcaster – which is slated to host the contest – would not comment on Regev’s statement, nor would it confirm the report that it had been asked to host the competition outside of Jerusalem.
The EBU told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that no decision has been made on the host city, and that it is important the contest continue to be a non-political event.
“No decisions have been made yet on the host city, venue and dates,” an EBU spokesman said Thursday. It noted that each year it requires the host broadcaster to present “a minimum of two host city and venue options” before the final decision is made. An EBU official added that it will be meeting again with Kan officials in Geneva later this month, and that for the past five years the host city has been announced “no earlier than July and no later than September.”
A EBU representative also noted that the contest is “a long running non-political entertainment event” and that it insists that every host broadcaster “takes all necessary steps to safeguard the non-political character of the event throughout the organization of the competition.”
While debate over the Eurovision has been ongoing since Israel’s Netta Barzilai won last month, tensions came to a head this week after the cancellation of the Argentina game. The match, originally slated for Haifa, was moved to Jerusalem last month after pressure from Regev. Officials said the reason was threats against the team’s star, Lionel Messi. But many also linked the cancellation to the decision to move the match; several surveys held in Israel on Wednesday and Thursday saw Israelis blaming Regev herself for the cancellation.