TEL AVIV • The Netherlands won the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in Israel yesterday in a songfest that passed off without serious incident, despite calls by pro-Palestinian groups to boycott the event.
Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence beat 25 other contestants in the grand final in Tel Aviv to win the glass microphone trophy.
The 25-year-old favourite won 492 points with his piano ballad, Arcade, about a failing relationship.
His victory gives the Netherlands the right to host the finals next year. Italy came second, with 465 points, and Russia third, with 369.
After receiving the prize from last year's winner, Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, Laurence said he hoped he had touched listeners.
"Believe in your music, believe in your artistry," he said.
This year's competition was more political than usual, held against the backdrop of a campaign that urged artists, fans and broadcasters to shun the event to protest against Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza.
But no singers or broadcasters pulled out, and only a small crowd of protesters turned up outside the venue.
However, pop superstar Madonna sprang a surprise during her guest performance of two songs - her iconic 1989 hit, Like A Prayer, and a new number, Future, sung alongside American rapper Quavo.
At the close of the second number, two backing dancers briefly appeared on stage wearing the Israeli and Palestinian flags on the back of their costumes.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said in a statement that "this element of the performance was not cleared with the EBU and the Host Broadcaster, KAN".
Hatari, Iceland's entrant, drew boos from the audience when the band held up small Palestinian banners live on air during voting.