The idea was simple enough: interview six of the directors of Israel’s feared security service, the Shin Bet, to hear their views on Israel. The results that director Dror Moreh (below left, obtained for "The Gatekeepers" — which opened Friday in Los Angeles and New York — were anything but simple.
By turns surprising, intimate, confessional, self-critical and, at times, scathing, the former spymasters offer harsh words for what they see as the Israeli government’s failure to make peace with the Palestinians.
Moreh talks about the experience of interviewing the Shin Bet leaders in a conversation with TheWrap.
(Pictured above, from left: Avraham Shalom, Ami Ayalon, Yaakov Peri, Yuval Diskin, Avi Dichter, Carmi Gillon)
Is there a taboo against Israelis thinking that their leaders do not want peace?
I think that Israel should have strived much more and should have used much more effort towards peace than it did. Whether it would achieve peace, I don’t know. But definitely we should have tried more and we should do that now.
This is what I feel and this is what they [the fomer Shin Bet directors] feel as well. Whenever there is calm, the Israeli leadership sits idle. They do nothing.
Even Ehud Barak, who came close to peace at Camp David?
Barak was the first example of that failure, because he came after the first term of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu with the hopes of every Israeli on him. They thought he would create peace. But Napoleon completely crushed the peace process singlehandedly. I would come back to the quote of Abba Eban that Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I would say that this is also true of the Israelis. Both sides never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
How did you get these people to talk to you?
I asked them. Simple as that. It was very important for me to talk to all of them because I want to be able to reach all of the tough audiences you are talking about. I don’t want them to be able to say, “Well, they are leftists. They hate Israel.” Tell that to the six heads of the Israeli secret service. The men who dealt with this war all of their lives and who tortured, who have dedicated their entire lives to the security of Israel. You better face that.
But having said that, it does not lift the responsibility from the Palestinians. They have played their part. [Yasser] Arafat was the worst leader ever. They [the PLO] didn’t understand what they had to do as an organization until Hamas took over and it was too late. What they are doing now, if they would have done that from 1993 -1995, everything would have been different.
Was the point of this movie to draw a lesson for Israeli society?
Absolutely, or at least put a mirror in front of the Israeli face, the normal, humdrum Israeli face, and tell them, “This is how you look.” And this mirror is being shown to you by the people who are the most responsible for maintaining and controlling and protecting your society.
I’ll just prepare you: Many American Jews do not like to hear any criticism of Israel.
That is one of the biggest problems for me because I am not American. I think they are hurting the state of Israel by not understanding that criticism must be heard. Israel is not above the law. In that way you are mostly hindering the state of Israel, because if you cannot hear criticism, if a state can never get criticism from its own, what do you think will happen?