By Lynn Venhaus
The complicated history of the Israel-Arab conflicts is explored in this thorough and engrossing documentary.
“The Human Factor” takes a deeper dive into the personalities involved and how that affected the persuasive efforts to change hearts and minds.
After the Cold War ended in 1991, the U.S. stayed the biggest global superpower and turned attention to negotiating peace in the Middle East. Director Dror Moreh takes a behind-the-scenes look at three decades of negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors by interviewing six mediators and uses archival footage for the historical details.
By interviewing go-between Dennis Ross – who worked under four presidential administrations, Gamal Helal, Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer, Robert Malley and Aaron Miller, we get different perspectives that add depth to the historical records. All accomplished diplomats, they shed light on the process that helps us to understand where and why things go wrong.
Moreh, an Oscar nominated Israeli film director for “The Gatekeepers” (2012), co-wrote the script with Oron Adar. They start out with Secretary of State James Baker, under President George H. W. Bush, and mainly concentrate on the impact of the Bill Clinton years. After the botched deal at Camp David in 2000, they wrap up the next 20 years in a montage rundown.
The U.S. has been so close, but today, it seems like peace between the countries seems more impossible than ever. And the former diplomats candidly share their frustrations.
What we thought was a breakthrough turned out not be what everyone assumed at the Oslo Accords in 1993.That agreement between Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from 1969 to 2004, and Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (’74-’77 and ’92-95), lead to a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, and then signed in 1995. But it did not result in peace. Rabin was assassinated two months later on Nov. 4, 1995.
Since then, five different men have served as prime minister of Israel: Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. and attempts to reach peace have failed.
The men in the rooms where it happened point out the missed opportunities, what happened with Syria and the PLO, and the complexities involved because of the region’s intricate history.
They could still be talking now, but the film smartly ends at 1 hour, 48 minutes, and is a story well-told. Moreh has gathered copious amounts of archival footage for the historical details.
A history, geography, political science and psychology class all at once, “The Human Factor” shows why there is no easy solution for sustainable peace in the Middle East.
“The Human Factor” is a 2019 documentary directed by Dror Moreh starring Dennis Ross, Gamal Helal, Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer, Robert Malley and Aaron Miller. It is rated PG-13 for some violence/bloody images and has a run time of 1 hour, 48 minutes. In opened in theaters May 7. Lynn’s Grade: B+
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat daily newspaper. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association.