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 documentary “The Fog of War,” about Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, when he hit on the idea of coaxing similarly candidaccounts 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.”