Israel announced it is quitting the Eurovision Song Contest after 44 years last night.
A representative delivered the bombshell live on air as he handed out the country’s scores on Saturday night.
He confirmed that the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, the body that is allied to Eurovision, was closing down so forcing the country to leave the competition.
The representative, Ofer Shalom, said: “This is IBA, Channel 1 calling from Jerusalem. For the past 44 years, Israel has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, winning three times.
“But tonight, is our final night, shortly IBA will shut down its broadcasting forever, so on behalf of all of us here in IBA, let me say thank you Europe for all the magical moments and the beautiful years. And hopefully we shall meet again in the future.”
BBC commentator Graham Norton said: “That is very sad.”
The Israeli Broadcasting Union will be replaced by a new station called Kan next week. However because Kan does not air news coverage it cannot be a member of the European Broadcasting Union thus making ineligible to enter Eurovision.
Israel has been competing regularly in the competition since 1973 and has won it three times – in 1973, 1979 and 1998 when Dana International triumphed with the song Diva.
Israel’s entry last night, Imri Ziv, finished in 23rd place with 39 points for the song I Feel Alive and written by Penn Hazut and Dolev Ram.
Ziv is an Israeli vocalist who has plenty of experience at Eurovision, having served as a backing singer in both 2015 and 2016. He has also previously appeared on Israel’s version of The Voice.
The announcement came on a dramatic night when Portugal won the competition with Amar Pelos Dois (Love For Two) sung by Salvador Sobral. The UK entry sung by Lucie Jones finished in 15th place.