Cleared by Israel, Arab Author Waits for Lebanon Entry Permit

Israeli-Arab author Ala Hlehel, who was cleared by the High Court of Justice this week to go to Beirut to receive a literary prize, is still waiting for clearance to enter Lebanon, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reports.

The report says the Lebanese embassy in London, where Hlehel is currently staying, has not yet granted the author an entry permit into the country as he is traveling on an Israeli passport.

Organizers of the Hay Festival Beirut39 have tried to resolve the issue of Hlehel's entry, stressing to the embassy that the festival began on Wednesday. They also requested intervention from the Lebanese culture minister.

Lebanon wants to avoid steps that could be interpreted as normal diplomatic ties with Israel, so the embassy is considering giving Hlehel a special transit certificate that would enable him to enter Lebanon without presenting his Israeli passport, sources familiar with the case told Haaretz.

In the ruling lifting the ban from Hlehel's travel to Lebanon, the High Court rejected arguments submitted on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Generally, Israeli citizens are forbidden to visit Lebanon, which Israel sees as an enemy state. According to the petitioners, this High Court decision marks the "first time since 1948 that an Israeli citizen is permitted to visit a state defined as an enemy state."

The High Court also instructed the state to explain why it has not established clear criteria for visits by Israeli citizens to countries deemed "enemy states."

Hlehel is one of 39 Arab authors who were invited to receive an award as part of the prestigious festival. This is the first year in which the event will be held in the Lebanese capital, which was declared by UNESCO as the literary capital of the world for 2010.