Netanyahu at meeting
Netanyahu at meetingFlash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised on Monday that the government will not interfere in the 2019 Eurovision song contest, which Israel is scheduled to host.

The assurances were offered in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office following a meeting on the issue with some government ministers.

“The government (will) act in accordance with European Broadcasting Union rules,” the statement said. “However, there are open legal issues regarding the Eurovision stemming from matters of pending legislation that are yet before the courts. The Prime Minister instructed that the legal aspects of the matter be examined with the relevant officials before a decision is made.”

The legal issues appear to refer to the current status of the Kan public broadcaster, which was created last year and has temporary membership in the European Broadcasting Union, which sponsors Eurovision.

The government is set to divide Kan into two separate entities – an entertainment entity and a news division — which would void its membership in the EBU and prevent Israel from hosting or participating in future Eurovision contests. The Supreme Court is considering the split but has not yet ruled on the issue.

Business news website The Marker reported that if the split is approved, the government would likely delay it by up to 18 months to allow Israel to host the song contest.

Israel won the 2018 contest, which took place in Lisbon on May 19, with the song “Toy” sung by Netta Barzilai.

Contest rules state that the winning country hosts the following year’s contest but the winning state can waive the right, as Israel did when it won for the second time in two years in 1979. At the time the waiver was used for economic reasons, as Israel's leaders cited the cost of producing such an event two years in a row. Israel also hosted Eurovision in 1999 after winning the contest in 1998.

Recent reports said that members of the EBU had made clear to their counterparts in Israel tasked with producing the 2019 song contest that there was “real danger” that Eurovision would not be held in Israel “if the politicians are adamant about getting involved.”

Culture and Sport Miri Regev has reportedly been demanding that Kan allow the government to be involved in producing the introductory segments for each artist for the 2019 contest. The segments are filmed in the host country and are an opportunity to publicize tourist opportunities, citing the public funds that will be used to host the contest.

She also previously reportedly threatened that if the Eurovision contest is not held in Jerusalem, she will work to ensure that it is not held in Israel altogether.

Following those reports, the Israeli government decided not to get involved in the process of selecting which Israeli city will host Eurovision in 2019 and said it will not insist that the competition be held in Jerusalem.

Four Israeli cities are said to meet the criteria to host Eurovision and likely will submit bids: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat.