Foreign Dispatch: Palestine’s Presidential Idol


By FOX News Radio’s Emily Wither

A group of young Palestinians are hoping they’ve got the Presidential talent to be their state’s next leader.

Worlds away from the dusty streets of Ramallah, smartly dressed Palestinians walk the gleaming hallways of the city’s only five-star hotel.

Down in the basement 23-year-old Husni Alazzeh straightens his suit jacket as producers buzz around him with various wires making sure he’s television ready. I’m told the lawyer, from a refugee camp in Bethlehem, is one of the front-runners. Alazzeh says it’s all about showing the world the Palestinians can build their own country.

“I think this show is very important for Palestinian youth, it highlights new abilities in our society; it’s not easy to be a leader, especially here,” he said.

Alazzeh says if he were to become President he has a number of ideas to solve some of the problems facing society.

“We should depend more on our products and boycott Israeli products, we could support youth projects more and provide more job opportunities,” he explains.

Think of it as ‘American Idol’ meets ‘The Apprentice’. But the panel isn’t made up of celebrities; instead a combination of educators, business leaders and well-known politicians occupy the judge’s seats.

In addition to answering tough questions in front of the panel, contestants will also take part in a number of activities such as, running a large company for the day or taking on the role of a Foreign Ambassador.

“We are combining the concept of reality format with politics to re-energize the Palestinians and the population to vote in the democratic process again,” explains Suheir Rasul Co-Director of the Search for Common Ground Jerusalem office, one of the organizations behind the show.


Rasul says she couldn’t believe the number of applicants, with 1,200 applying to take part within the first two weeks.

“We didn’t anticipate such a hunger and outcry for this kind of show so I think what the Palestinian youth want is to be engaged and they want a place to have their voices heard and be involved in politics,” she said.

It’s down to the final 25 now and five of the front-runners are from Gaza. They can’t actually come to Ramallah to record because of Israeli restrictions on their travel, so instead they take part via video link.

For contestant Bahaa Khateeb it’s all about building up the Palestinian community and economy. The 26-year-old is calling for a peaceful revolution and compares his strategy to soccer.

“It’s like, the Indian football club can’t play with Spain because they are not the same power,” he says. “So how should we face Israel when we don’t have the power to face them? So I think building the Palestinian state is the most important,” he continued.

He agrees to talk to me after discovering I am from an American news company. He explains that a few of them refused to talk to Israeli journalists that came to watch a recording last week for fear their interviews would be twisted.

Rasul believes the show will inspire other Palestinians to get involved in politics. “I think this is just the beginning of what we’re going to see for Palestinians in the region, next year’s show will be even bigger.”

The public will vote for their young President via text message at the end of June. Show producers say the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is a fan and while the winner won’t actually steal his job he may hear what they have to say.

LISTEN to FOX News Radio’s Emily Wither reporting from Ramallah: