To date there have been four Israeli victories in the contest. Izhar Cohen and Alphabeta won in Paris in 1978 with the uptempo A-Ba-Ni-Bi. On home ground in Jerusalem the following year, Israel won again, this time with the anthemic Hallelujah performed by Gali Atari & Milk and Honey. Unusually, Israel did not defend the title in 1980 (see below). The third victory came almost 20 years later in Birmingham in 1998. Singer Dana International took top honours with the song Diva, setting off widespread celebrations in Israel. Twenty years later, Israel earned their fourth victory at the 2018 contest in Lisbon, Portugal. The song was "Toy" by Netta Barzilai, which earned Israel their highest-ever score of 529 points.
Israel's earliest selections were picked by the Israel Broadcasting Authority. The first singer to represent the country in 1973 was Ilanit, who finished 4th. Criticism increased after she was sent again four years later, leading to a rule that the winner of the already established Hebrew Song and Chorus Festival would also represent Israel at the contest. The Eurovision Song Contest winners of 1978 and 1979 were selected by this method. From 1981 the selection process was handled by the Kdam Eurovision with the exceptions of 1990, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002–2004, 2006–2007 and 2010 where the selections were again picked by the IBA.
After winning the contest in 1978 and 1979, the IBA was financially and logistically unable to organise the event for the second consecutive year. The organization of the festival was subsequently handed over to the Netherlands who finally agreed to stage it. Because much time had already passed, it was difficult to find a suitable date for the Song Contest. The date chosen coincided with a memorial day in Israel, and the country was forced to withdraw. This made Israel the only country to date unable to defend its title. The 1980 Hebrew Song and Chorus Festival therefore did not double as a national final that year unlike the last two years, and the winning song "Pizmon Chozer" by the band The Brothers & the Sisters was never given the chance to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1984 Israel once again refrained from participating due to the same date conflict. The song "Balalaika" by Ilanit has often been rumoured to originally have been intended as the Israel entry in Eurovision Song Contest 1984 but the rumours have never been confirmed.
Apart from its victories, Israel's entries have had a mixed reception at the contest. Avi Toledano (1982) and Ofra Haza (1983) scored well with big revivalist numbers, but the all-singing, all-dancing style became less popular later in the decade and Israel's 1986 entry, Yavo Yom by Moti Giladi & Sarai Tzuriel, came in 19th, the country's worst showing yet.
In 1987 Israel finished 8th with Shir Habatlanim by the satiric duo Lazy Bums. Due to its satiric nature, it prompted then Israeli Minister of Culture, Yitzhak Navon, to threaten to resign, if the song went on to represent Israel on the night of the contest. However, he didn't.
In 1990 Rita's sensuous ballad was not well received, but in 1991, Orna and Moshe Datz finished third, Israel's best result since 1983. Israel's third victory occurred in 1998, when Dana International won the crown with her song "Diva." Israel also had a 5th-place finish by Eden when it hosted the 1999 contest. However, Ping-Pong's disco effort in 2000 failed badly, though the group was noted for their largely optimistic lyrics and message of reconciliation and peace in Western Asia. They went as far as waving Syrian flags at the end of their performance, angering some Israelis.
In 2004 David D'Or came in 11th in the semifinal with the song "Leha'amin" (להאמין), leaving Israel out of the finals for the first time since 1997. Shiri Maymon's performance in Kiev in 2005 brought Israel back to the top five, and ensured a place in the Athens 2006 final. In 2006, Israel was represented by singer Eddie Butler, who had finished 5th as part of Eden in 1999; however, his performance of the song "Together We Are One" finished 23rd, with just four points.
IBA's Eurovision committee chose the band Teapacks to represent Israel in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Final in Helsinki. Their humorous entry "Push the Button" did not fare well, finishing in 24th place out of a semifinal field of 28 and failing to reach the final. Israel had to compete in the semi-final in Belgrade 2008, from which it passed on to the final; Boaz finished ninth. At the Eurovision Song Contest 2009, an Arab citizen of Israel represented the country for the first time, as Mira Awad performed along with Jewish-Israeli singer Noa in Moscow. Israel was represented in 2010 by Harel Skaat, who came in 14th in the final.
Israel's participations from 2011 to 2014 were less successful, as former Eurovision winner Dana International in Düsseldorf, the band Izabo in Baku, Moran Mazor in Malmö and Mei Finegold in Copenhagen, all failed to qualify for the final. However, 16-year-old Nadav Guedj qualified with Golden Boy in 2015, the first Israel song without a Hebrew lyric. Prior to their fourth win, they also managed to qualify in 2016 with Hovi Star and "Made of Stars" (which finished 14th) and in 2017 with Imri Ziv and "I Feel Alive" (which finished 23rd, Israel's lowest score in a Eurovision final since 2006).