ISRAEL 🇮🇱 Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev has threatened to withdraw Israel as host of next year’s Eurovision if the annual song competition is not held in Jerusalem out of political considerations.
“I will recommend to the government that if the Eurovision is not in Jerusalem, then it wouldn’t be right to host it,” she told public broadcaster Kan on Thursday morning.
“It will cost Israel NIS 50 million ($14 million) and is designed to market the country,” she said. “So I personally say, if the Eurovision won’t be held in Jerusalem, it’s not right to invest the NIS 50 million in public funds.”
“The state of Israel has a capital, it’s called Jerusalem, and we should not be ashamed of it,” she added.
Regev’s threat comes days after Argentina’s national soccer team canceled a friendly game in Jerusalem after a concerted Palestinian campaign urged the team to boycott the Jewish state and after the players received threats.
The Likud minister, who had been criticized over a decision to move the match venue from Haifa to Jerusalem, insisted on Wednesday that threats of violence, rather than pressure by Israel boycott activists, had prompted the cancellation.
Also Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed concern that the scrapped Argentina game could portend future cancellations of cultural events in the Jewish state.
“I hope this will not affect other areas,” he said in London. “We must prepare for the possibility that all kinds of pressure will be exerted.”
Israel won the 2018 Eurovision contest on May 19 with the song “Toy” by Netta Barzilai. According to the annual competition’s rules, the winning country hosts the following year’s contest.
Israel has hosted the Eurovision contest twice before in Jerusalem, a city that most countries do not recognize as Israel’s capital.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has reportedly held secret meetings with Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, which said its main concern about holding the event in Jerusalem was that several countries may not participate.
At a recent meeting, European organizers of the Eurovision stressed to their Israeli counterparts that if the music competition becomes a source of political wrangling, there was a real chance it could be held elsewhere, the Ynet news website reported on Wednesday.