Israeli politicians are blaming each other for this Tuesday’s embarrassing debacle which saw Argentina cancel its football match with Israel. Amid the fall out, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his usually loyal Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev were, according to the Times of Israel, pointing the finger at each other over the decision to hold the game in Jerusalem, the move which is believed to have contributed to the Argentina’s decision.
While Regev and Netanyahu have followed the usual script and blamed the Argentinian cancellation on Palestinian terrorism, in Israel fingers are being pointed at each other. Regev in particular is getting the brunt of the blame for what Israeli government opposition parties themselves are describing as a blatant attempt by the sports minister to politicise the match by moving it to Jerusalem.
Speaking yesterday, both Netanyahu and Regev denied that the location of the game had anything to do with the cancellation, but each also said the other was responsible for the change of venue. Netanyahu, who is in London, said it was Regev who had decided to move the game to Jerusalem.
“I didn’t request or ask that the game be moved to Jerusalem. I don’t know the efforts that were made,” Netanyahu said.
At the same time as the briefing in the UK and apparently unaware of the prime minister’s comments, Regev gave a very different version of events. During an interview with an Israeli newspaper she said “The prime minister is the one that sent a letter to [Argentine President Mauricio] Macri four months ago asking they come to play in Jerusalem.”
Over in the Knesset there was heated exchange over the national embarrassment. Members were told that Regev had agreed to pay the organisers $730,000 to move the game from Haifa to Jerusalem on the condition that the minister be given an “active role” in the event, including a handshake with Messi on the pitch, and a press conference.
Opposition politicians accused Netanyahu and Regev of politicising the game by insisting it take place in Jerusalem. Isaac Herzog, opposition chairman, said in a statement that Israel scored a “spectacular own goal” for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, questioning claims that Israel’s international standing is improving and describing Argentina’s decision as “a symbolic failure of a government that is burying its head in the sand, ” the Times of Israel reported.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said the cancellation was a result of “Regev and Netanyahu’s insistence on turning the game from a display of sportsmanship into a display of personal politics”.
Regev, who it seems has become extremely bitter by the humiliation has thrown a tantrum and demanded that next year’s Eurovision song contest be held in Jerusalem, which appears to be another attempt by the Israeli politician to turn a cultural event into a political statement.