Two Arab residents of the Galilee have made it through to the live rounds of Arab Idol, but face considerable bureaucratic hurdles and travel restrictions from the Israeli government, the website Siha Mekomit reported Tuesday.
Manal Moussa, 25, of Deir al-Asad and Haitham Khalailah, 24, from the neighboring village of Majd al-Krum initially auditioned for the show in Ramallah and were selected for the next round in Beirut.
However, Lebanon is declared an enemy state by Israel, and the travel of Israelis in the territory is illegal under both Israeli and Lebanese law.
The two managed to participate in the first round of the show after receiving special permission from the Palestinian Authority, but upon their return to Israel they were interrogated by the Shin Bet and their passports were confiscated, the report (Hebrew) said.
Moussa and Khalailah considered asking former Likud MK Ayoob Kara to assist them, but later decided his intervention might be construed as collaboration with the Israeli government, and resolved not to risk their reputation — which has been impugned by several Arab pundits.
One Lebanese columnist questioned whether the two, as holders of Israeli citizenship, should participate in the show, while users on Arabic social media have been similarly critical of the pair.
It remains unclear whether the two contenders will be allowed to return, or have already returned to Beirut.
Last year, Mohammed Assaf, a young wedding singer from a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, won the show.
Assaf said he had to plead with Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers to let him leave the territory, then bribe Egyptian border guards to enter the country en route to Lebanon to compete.
AP contributed to this report.