The issue began when Miss Israel Doron Matalon posted a photo of herself with Miss Lebanon Saly Greige smiling together during pageant preparations in Miami. As their countries are technically at war, some Lebanese have called for Greige to be stripped of her title for befriending Matalon.
Greige responded to her critics, saying, "Since the first day of my arrival to participate for Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel, who tried several times to take a photo with me. I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia, suddenly Miss Israel jumped in and took a selfie, and uploaded it on her social media."
Matalon defended herself to ET, saying, "It's just a picture. It's just a regular selfie. I didn't know it would be all this media attention ... The Israel people are okay with this picture."
Pageant owner Donald Trump says he was saddened by the backlash.
"To have this happen there is no place for it," Trump told ET. "This is not the kind of thing that I would like to build up ratings."
The 63rd Miss Universe Pageant (judged by William Levy, Manny Pacquiao, Kristin Cavallari, Lisa Vanderpump and Louise Roe) airs Sunday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.