Rarely a Eurovision season goes by without a bit of drama unfurling in the host country. And yesterday saw the latest crisis, when it emerged that Israeli security services had been ordered to stop preparations for their work at Expo Tel Aviv following disagreements over the source of their funding. Luckily, the Prime Minister’s Office has now agreed to supply the relevant funds and work can continue.
But what was the drama actually about?
On Sunday evening, Zivit Davidovitch, the executive supervisor of this year’s contest, posted a video to her Facebook page from inside the Eurovision 2019 host venue. In the post she commented: “Feeling ashamed of my country. The ESC pavilion – empty because of police strike against the event.”
Feeling ashamed of my country. The ESC pavilion- empty because of police strike against the event.
Posted by Zivit Davidovitch on Sunday, March 31, 2019
However, it was later revealed that police were not striking against the event. Rather, Israeli media reported that the Ministry of Public Security had told security forces to stop their preparations after not receiving the promised funding.
Last week, following months of negotiations between the EBU, Israel’s public broadcaster KAN and the Israeli government, it was decided that the NIS 7.5 million (~ €1,800,000) budget for security around Eurovision would be divided equally between five bodies: KAN, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Finance.
However, the Ministry of Tourism later refused to pay their NIS 1.5 million share of the budget, stating that security is not their responsibility. As a result of this, both the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Communications would not pay their share either.
The Ministry of Public Security confirmed that security preparations would not go ahead until there was a commitment to pay the required money.
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— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) April 1, 2019
This naturally did not sit well with KAN and the EBU.
In a letter to each of the ministries, the CEO of KAN, Eldad Koblenz, noted that if security personnel were not present then there was a real danger that construction inside Expo Tel Aviv would not be finished on time: “We urgently want to warn that as long as these jobs do not begin as early as tomorrow morning, there is a real danger that the corporation will not be able to complete the construction work by the required date”.
A joint letter from Jon Ola Sand, ESC executive supervisor, and Frank-Dieter Freiling, chairman of the Eurovision reference group, was also sent to Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. In the strongly-worded document, published by Calcalist, they gave more details about why security services needed to be in attendance during the construction:
In our meeting of last October, you personally confirmed that the Eurovision Song Contest is
an event of national importance for which security is the responsibility of the state; you
guaranteed that the state will take all necessary steps to ensure that an event of such
importance would be treated accordingly and that safety for all elements of the Eurovision
Song Contest will be secured. It is already irritating enough that over the last few months
there has been constant discussions on who is paying what for the external security
measures around the Eurovision Song Contest. This all culminated yesterday, as we learned
that the Israeli police has been instructed not to proceed with the inspection of the venue and
equipment (so-called “K9 bomb search routine”) at the Eurovision Song Contest Venue.
Needless to say that with the level of exposure of an event like the Eurovision Song Contest,
it is essential that such K9 bomb search routine be undertaken in all parts of the venue and
for all entering equipment in line with state of the art security rules. Please be advised that
this search routine has always been undertaken in all countries where the ESC has taken
place in the past years and refraining from doing so would be unprecedented.
The EBU fully supports KAN’s statement issued yesterday and work cannot resume without
the K9 bomb search routine being appropriately undertaken. 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
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) March 31, 2019
The hosting of Eurovision is a massive operation. And as might be expected, the failure of one detail can have a large knock-on effect on the entire production.
Thankfully, a solution for the crisis was eventually found. The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that it would transfer the required amount of money in order to finance the security of Eurovision 2019.
Now that the financial matters appear to have been solved, work can once again begin on bringing Eurovision 2019 to Tel Aviv. Only 46 days to go!
What do you make of this latest crisis? Are you glad that a solution was found relatively quickly? Let us know in the comments below.