Eurovision Executives Blast Netanyahu for Dragging Feet on Security Arrangements

In strongly worded letter, contest supervisor warns of 'unimaginable consequences' toTel Aviv event should Israel not take responsibility for security budget

File Photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets Israeli Eurovision Song Contest winner Netta Barzilai in his residence in Jerusalem, May 16, 2018.
Haim Zach/GPO

Eurovision Song Contest executives scolded the Israeli government for not "ensuring appropriate measures" to secure the event, to be held in Tel Aviv in May, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having "clearly confirmed" his commitment to earmark budget in an October meeting.

Supervisor Jon Ola Sand and Chairman Frank-Dieter Freiling urged Netanyahu in a biting letter sent on Tuesday to "claim full responsibility for securing the event, including at the financial level," as is norm for host countries. The letter was first reported by Israel's Channel 12 News.

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The Kan public broadcaster, Sand wrote, notified the European Broadcasting Union that the Israeli government was balking at covering security costs near the venue. The Prime Minister's Office only said that "the issue will be looked into and budget sources set" after preliminary police preparations.

The letter, also sent to Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, mentions an October 28 meeting with Netanyahu, adding: "You must remember that one of the issues we discussed during the meeting was the issue of security and the need to ensure appropriate measures in the event and its surroundings, as well as the deployment of a sufficient police presence in the public areas."

At that meeting, it was agreed that "security costs are to be covered by the state and not the broadcaster," the letter reads. "The government vowed to undertake covering all costs of security measures outside the venue."

Security arrangements are "obviously" essential for preparations for the international event to run smoothly, Sand added. If Kan had to bear the brunt, he warned, it will detract from the quality of the show and might outright ruin it: "The consequences of any security lapses would be unimaginable."

He said various delegations have raised concerns about security arrangements for the song contest, to be attended by thousands. "An announcement on behalf of the State of Israel that it would indeed fund security for the event would undeniably and clearly reassure all the delegations that are concerned about coming to Israel."

The latest point of contention adds to Netanyahu's ongoing resentment of Kan. His government had refused to cover the production costs for the song contest, leading the public broadcaster to cut its regular budget.