After months of small-scale scandals and crises, including accusations of copyright infringement and unwillingness on the part of the Israeli government to cough up funding, the Eurovision planning committee finalized its location for next May’s competition, choosing Tel Aviv as its host city. For many avid observers of the music contest, such a choice should have hardly come as a surprise, given the coastal city’s popularity, its capacity for large entertainment events, and its iconic status as Israel’s cultural and LGBTQ capital. Yet only months ago, a number of Israeli government ministers were apoplectic at this notion; Culture Minister Miri Regev went so far as to exclaim that if the contest were not held in Jerusalem, it should not be held in Israel, period. Fast forward a few months, and Regev’s response was far more reserved, yielding to the reality there was little benefit her protests could bring except for winning her some more votes during future Likud primaries.

There are a confluence of factors that went into Eurovision’s decision to determine Tel Aviv the most suitable location for the event, a number of which are unrelated to politics, and it’s worth noting that even under the best of circumstances, hosting an event in Israel, much less Jerusalem, would have still drawn the ire of BDS activists determined to stymie these plans. Followers of the contest are likely to point out that Israel has already hosted the event on two separate occasions in Jerusalem with little pushback, despite an already established international consensus regarding the status of the eastern half of the city and the Holy Basin. But it cannot be ignored that since President Trump’s initial announcement last December to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem — and the subsequent series of events in its wake — the city’s already controversial status has made it virtually toxic in some quarters, threatening to transform something as innocuous as a music competition into bitter political theater.

We first witnessed the city’s now-problematic nature following the Argentinian National Football Team’s decision to cancel a planned friendly match in Israel just days before the start of the World Cup. Handwringing about the boycott movement aside, it appears that the reasons for the cancellation may have had more to do with the seeming politicization of the event by Regev, who pushed hard for the match to be moved from Haifa to the capital, only to be rebuffed by the Argentinians who felt that their presence was being exploited to shore up support for the U.S. president’s recent decision and disliked the notion of being used as political pawns (there have since been discussions of the team returning to Israel at some point in the near future).

While the coalition may have initially believed that the president’s transfer of the embassy would act as a precedent and a catalyst for other countries to follow suit and legitimize it as Israel’s capital, the opposite effect seems to have taken hold, with the overwhelming majority of countries confirming their aversion to the move until a final status agreement is complete. Even countries which initially went along with the American decision — perhaps signaling a very real shift in policy — have now backtracked, returning their embassies to Tel Aviv, much to the chagrin and anger of the Israeli government. President Trump’s other recent decisions that seemingly punish the Palestinians have not endeared him to anyone else in the international community; they have simply confirmed the worst suspicions about the administration’s Middle East team and its overwhelming bias towards the Israeli right’s positions.

Therefore, the decision to hold the event in Tel Aviv, while not wholly dependent on political factors, cannot be divorced from them either. A scenario in which Jerusalem won out as the location of choice might very likely have been met with, if not outright boycotts, then at least a greater amount of political pressure on the part of countries planning on participating. It is not a coincidence that organizers of the event have highlighted the competition’s non-political nature (or rather its goal in using music as a means of bridging political divides), leading them to seek a solution shorn of anything that might indicate even a tacit embrace of controversial views. Israeli politicians in the coalition may grind their teeth and complain in private about having to kowtow to such diktats by the event’s organizers, but in reality there is little they can do but accept that Jerusalem is simply no longer an option—a possible blessing in disguise, as such a controversy might ultimately detract from the contest itself.

Israel’s Eurovision victory and its consequent privilege to hold next year’s ceremony in Tel Aviv will be a wonderful opportunity to show off the country to millions of viewers who would otherwise have no exposure to many of the nation’s positive attributes. Yet the decision to eschew the capital for such a high profile event likely sets a precedent far more likely to be widely observed than that Trump’s stance. Those who believe the current administration’s decisions regarding the conflict will inevitably be accepted by the wider global community or that its actions are irreversible should scale back their expectations, lest they face crushing disappointment in a few years’ time.

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