Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Movie with Abe: The Human Factor

The Human Factor
Directed by Dror Moreh
Released January 22, 2021

Since the official creation of the country of Israel in 1948, there have been few lasting moments of peace between it and its neighbors. Multiple wars early in its history and the presence of two peoples within it have only exacerbated that. Throughout that time, the United States took an active role in trying to facilitate some sort of understanding, working with Israelis and Palestinians to determine what they needed in order to coexist. One of the sincerest and most groundbreaking efforts was undertaken by three men from very different backgrounds and perspectives: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and U.S. President Bill Clinton.

This documentary examines the Oslo Accords, brokered by Clinton, from the point of view of the American negotiators. The narrative begins before Clinton was elected, looking at a history of American involvement in the Middle East peace process and the groundbreaking nature of two longtime enemies, Rabin and Arafat, even coming to the table to acknowledge each other as people. The story also continues after the assassination of Rabin in Israel and Clinton’s departure from office, examining the shortcomings and failures of even the most determined and comparably open-minded operatives.

There is a great deal of levity to be found in this film that deals with very serious issues that have an enduring impact for all the residents of the region. Anecdotes about Arafat’s team watching “The Golden Girls” and the leader cutting one of the negotiators’ chicken for him lead to humorous comparisons to typical Jewish traits, and that sentiment was shown to be at play in the surprisingly cordial relations between Rabin and Arafat. The film strikes a more somber tone when it describes and shows Clinton’s heartbroken reaction to learning of the death of his friend Rabin, and the gradually derailed process that starts with his successor, who just happens to be the man currently serving as prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is a highly informative film that adds new weight to a conversation that has been had countless times, with the negotiators offering tremendous detail and reflection on what each party did wrong. Conflicting expectations about what elements of the process would mean for Israelis and Palestinians was the root of the problem, but, twenty-five years later, those intimately involved have come to see their own role in playing favorites. Unlike his previous film, “The Gatekeepers,” however, documentarian Dror Moreh isn’t presenting a searing indictment of his home country but instead powerfully exploring the difficulties of achieving peace and the value of striving for something else that might be more sustainable and possible.


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