Eurovision heads to Netanyahu: Delays 'could be disastrous'

EBU officials say government must fund security needs immediately to ensure the competition go forward.

By
April 1, 2019 21:55
3 minute read.
Pavilion 2 at Expo Tel Aviv, which is slated to host the Eurovision, is seen on Monday

Pavilion 2 at Expo Tel Aviv, which is slated to host the Eurovision, is seen on Monday. (photo credit: ZIVIT DAVIDOVICH)

 
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The two European executives of the Eurovision Song Contest sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday slamming the government for delays in preparation for the contest.

Security work ahead of the contest in Tel Aviv in May – specifically police inspection of equipment – was halted Monday due to budgetary squabbling between government ministries.

“Work cannot resume without the K9 bomb search routine being appropriately undertaken,”  – Eurovision Song Contest chairman Frank-Dieter Freiling and executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand wrote in the letter to the prime minister.

“Without a rapid turnaround of this instruction, the delays entailed by the absence of this essential security measure will have severe and significant negative consequences on the ability to hold the rehearsals on time and thus on the budget and on the quality of the shows that will be broadcast out of Tel Aviv.”

In the biting letter, the European Broadcasting Union officials told Netanyahu that they see this as yet another indication the government is not meeting its responsibilities.

“It is already irritating enough that over the last few months there have been constant discussions on who is paying what for the external security measures around the Eurovision Song Contest,” Freiling and Sand wrote.

They further pointed out that security is of utmost importance particularly in Tel Aviv, referencing the recent rocket attacks on Israel’s Center.

“As you may guess, in view of the recent events in Tel Aviv, this is already a delicate topic for the delegations,” they wrote. “This new information will only raise more concerns and questions on the appropriateness of the security and safety measures implemented in Israel for the Eurovision Song Contest.”

Freiling and Sand wrote to Netanyahu on Monday that they “are available for a discussion by phone at any time today as consequences could be disastrous for the Eurovision Song Contest and Israel.” But by late Monday evening, the ministries remained at a standoff.

The dispute first broke out on Sunday evening, when KAN CEO Elad Koblenz wrote to four government ministries noting that lack of funding had resulted in police halting all work at the Eurovision site. Koblenz said that if the inspection does not restart immediately, then the budget and timetable of the Tel Aviv Eurovision contest will be called into question.

Last week, the ministries of Public Security, Tourism, Communications and Finance (the Treasury) came to an agreement with the KAN public broadcaster to split the NIS 7.5 million cost of securing the competition, contributing NIS 1.5m. each to the security budget.

“In light of the current halting of production,” Koblenz wrote, “there is a real danger that the production will not be able to meet its deadlines.”

A source in the Public Security Ministry told Israel Hayom that the other three government ministries who agreed to foot the security bill have yet to transfer the funds. The source said the ministry cannot pay for all the expenses by itself.

Zivit Davidovitch, the executive producer of this year’s Eurovision, wrote on Facebook late Sunday night that she is “feeling ashamed of my country. The ESC pavilion [is] empty because of police strike against the event.”

On Monday, KAN shared a video by Davidovitch of Pavilion 2 at Expo Tel Aviv – which is set to house the competition – with no work taking place at all.

“The image of the State of Israel is being harmed,” a KAN spokeswoman said on Monday. “There are damages of half a million shekels a day – from public funds – as a result of the delay due to the conduct of the government ministries.”

KAN said two foreign companies are currently at the Expo Tel Aviv with manpower and equipment but are unable to begin work because the police have halted their inspections.

Since the moment Israel won the Eurovision last year – awarding it the right to host this year – the KAN public broadcaster has publicly sparred with the government over funding. After a public standoff in August, KAN and the Finance Ministry agreed to a deal where the public broadcaster took out a NIS 70m. loan, and will use NIS 50m. of its budget to fund the competition. KAN claims that this is the first year in which the Eurovision host country’s government will not be participating in the costs of the competition.

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