OS­CAR?

TINKER TAI­LOR SOL­DIER

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY STYLE - BY ANN HOR­NA­DAY

When we last caught up with film­maker Dror Moreh, it was at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, where his docu

men­tary “The Gate­keep­ers” — fea­tur­ing six former heads of the Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence ser­vice Shin Bet — be­came one of the break­out hits of the 10-day pro­gram.

A lot had changed by the time Moreh vis­ited Washington in Jan­uary. In Novem­ber, Ha­mas sent rock­ets to the out­skirts of Tel Aviv, part of an out­burst of vi­o­lence that threat­ened to take hold in the hereto­fore peace­ful West Bank. Ten days be­fore Moreh’s visit, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu won a third term, al­beit with a weak­ened hard-line par­lia­men­tary coali­tion. Just a few days ear­lier, Pres­i­dent Obama was in­au­gu­rated for his sec­ond term.

Oh, and “The Gate­keep­ers” had been

nom­i­nated for an Os­car.

Through it all, Moreh had been nur­tur­ing one dream. “You know what is my wish? To see the movie with Pres­i­dent Obama,” said Moreh, 51. “I think it would show him a lot about the Mid­dle East con­flict. He can learn a lot about what needs to be done from [our] film.”

In­deed, “The Gate­keep­ers,” which opens here on Feb. 22, presents an in­valu­able primer on con­tem­po­rary Is­raeli his­tory, which Moreh presents through the eyes of sea­soned Shin Bet lead­ers in un­prece­dented in­ter­views, each re­lat­ing first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence with the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, the fight against ter­ror­ism, “en­hanced” in­ter­ro­ga­tions, tar­geted as­sas­si­na­tions and the rise of ex­trem­ist fac­tions within Is­rael it­self. Start­ing with the Six-Day War in 1967, “The Gate­keep­ers” weaves to­gether talk­ing-head in­ter­views with sur­veil­lance footage, re-en­act­ments and com­puter an­i­ma­tion to cre­ate a riv­et­ing ac­count of the agency’s suc­cesses, fail­ures and scan­dals. To a man, the Shin Bet lead­ers de­cry a gen­er­a­tion of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who they say ig­nored their rec­om­men­da­tions to keep the peace process alive, in­stead stay­ing locked into a cy­cle of oc­cu­pa­tion, vi­o­lence and reprisal that shows no signs of let­ting up.

Moreh was watch­ing Er­rol Mor­ris’s doc­u­men- tary “The Fog of War,” about Viet­nam-era De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert McNa­mara, when he hit on the idea of coax­ing sim­i­larly can­did ac­counts from Is­rael’s se­cret ser­vice lead­ers. “But I need[ed] all of them. Why? Be­cause I [didn’t] want it to be chal­lenged, for some­one to say, ‘He’s a lefty, he’s a righty.’ It’s all of them.”

Start­ing with Ami Ayalon, who led the Shin Bet from 1996 un­til 2000, Moreh posed the same ques­tion to his sub­jects: “I wanted the ex­perts on the Is­rael-Pales­tinian con­flict . . . to ex­plain why, af­ter 45 years since the Six-Day War, Is­rael hasn’t found a so­lu­tion to this prob­lem.” The an­swer, although far from sim­ple, al­most al­ways comes down to government forces that, when faced with a cri­sis, re­sponded out of emo­tion or po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency rather than ra­tio­nal­ity and com­pro­mise. “We wanted se­cu­rity and we got more ter­ror­ism,” Ayalon says of the pe­riod fol­low­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Yitzak Rabin in 1995. “They wanted a state and they got more set­tle­ments.”

Although Ayalon and his col­leagues present a

re­mark­ably united front in “The Gate­keep­ers” — all of them fa­vor con­tin­ued ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tini­ans, an end to the oc­cu­pa­tion of the West Bank and a set­tle­ment freeze — Moreh ad­mits that the con­sen­sus is partly due to “the magic of edit­ing.”

“Of course, there are dif­fer­ences in their way of think­ing,” the film­maker con­tin­ues. “I’d say four are more left-wing and two are more cen­ter. But they all be­lieve in a two-state so­lu­tion, in the pos­si­bil­ity of cre­at­ing this agree­ment with the Pales­tini­ans. They all res­onate that in dif­fer­ent ways, but ba­si­cally they all be­lieve that’s the most im­por­tant thing. When they see the con­flict and they see the price that Is­rael has paid for that con­flict, they are all wor­ried.” (Says former Shin Bet di­rec­tor Yaakov Peri in the film, “When you re­tire, you be­come a bit of a left­ist.”)

Moreh, who grew up in Jerusalem and lives in Tel Aviv, makes haste to em­pha­size that the Pales­tini­ans have their own part in the stale­mate. “I’m not ab­solv­ing the Pales­tini­ans,” he says. “It’s not that the Is­raelis have [made] all the mis­takes them­selves. But ... if you are for a two-state so­lu­tion as the prime min­is­ter, how can you build a coali­tion with Lieber­man?”

Moreh is again re­fer­ring to Ne­tanyahu and his former deputy prime min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber- man, a long­time skep­tic of the peace process and a critic of plans to re­turn to Is­rael’s 1967 bor­ders. Call­ing Ne­tanyahu “the worst en­emy of Is­rael,” Moreh notes that, with the prime min­is­ter’s coali­tion weak­ened, he may now be forced to work with more cen­trist par­ties. “Hopefully within two years — and that’s what I sus­pect will be the length of this government — there will be an­other elec­tion. And then I hope there will be a very prom­i­nent can­di­date against him.”

If Ne­tanyahu is Is­rael’s worst en­emy, ac­cord­ing to Moreh, Obama “is the best thing that’s hap­pened to Is­rael in a long, long, long time.” Re­gard­ing the pres­i­dent’s com­ments last month that Is­rael doesn’t know what its best in­ter­ests are, Moreh says, “He’s ab­so­lutely right. And this isn’t coming from Dror Moreh. I’m not that im­por­tant. Six former lead­ers of the se­cret ser­vice are say­ing the same thing. Ex­actly the same words, al­most word for word what Obama said.”

Still, even Moreh ad­mits that the pres­i­dent will have to take a more ac­tivist role in the Arab-Is­raeli dis­pute dur­ing his sec­ond ad­min­is­tra­tion. “He doesn’t have a choice,” he says. “If things stay like it is now, or if noth­ing hap­pens in Is­rael, there will be an­other erup­tion of vi­o­lence soon. Whether he likes it or not, he will have to in­ter­vene. . . . I don’t see [that] the Is­raelis and the Pales­tini­ans them­selves have the power, the en­ergy or the kind of lead­er­ship they need in or­der to solve that prob­lem. Un­less there [is] huge pres­sure from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, noth­ing will change — on the con­trary, it will only get worse and worse and worse.”

With the Os­cars a week away, Moreh has turned his fan­tasies from the White House to the red car­pet, which he’d like to walk (in a rented tux) with all six gate­keep­ers, dressed in sharp black suits and sun­glasses, “walking in slow mo­tion, like ‘ Reser­voir Dogs’!” he laughs. The point wouldn’t just be to look cool. “If th­ese peo­ple come to tell you th­ese things, you’d bet­ter lis­ten,” says Moreh. “Be­cause they know. They have no in­ter­est in say­ing those things what­so­ever, aside from really car­ing for the state of Is­rael and for the peo­ple of Is­rael and their fam­i­lies.”

In ‘THE GATE­KEEP­ERS,’ Dror Moreh got Is­raeli spy­mas­ters to open up about the sab­o­taged peace process and found a sur­pris­ing con­sen­sus about who the real cul­prits are.

AVRA­HAM SHAOM AND AVNER SHAHAF\SONY PIC­TURES CLAS­SICS

YAAKOV PERI AND AVNER SHAHAF/SONY PIC­TURES CLAS­SICS

THEN AND NOW: Shin Bet chiefs Ami Ayalon, left, Yaakov Peri, be­low, and Avra­ham Shalom, bot­tom left, dis­cuss their work and the ob­sta­cles to peace in “The Gate­keep­ers.”

FROM AMI AYALON AND AVNER SHAHAF/SONY PIC­TURES CLAS­SICS

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