‘The Human Factor’ Review: In Peace Talks Trust Is Vital and Elusive


“The Human Factor” presents a cogent and involving view of the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, mainly from 1991 until the end of Bill Clinton’s first term, told through the recollections of United States negotiators charged with brokering a peace. It shows how much any international agreement relies on a rare alignment of concrete compromises and personal trust — what the former Middle East envoy Dennis B. Ross here calls the “human factor.” As he says at the start of the film, in a negotiation, “You can’t ignore the human factor. Someone who has a human touch treats someone else with respect. Someone who has a human touch doesn’t think they’re going to outsmart anybody.”

Almost entirely in English, this documentary opens with a title card disclaiming that it’s “told from the point of view of the American negotiators.” But strictly speaking, it’s their point of view assembled into a movie by an Israeli director, Dror Moreh, maker of “The Gatekeepers,” which also profiled major players in the Middle East, former heads of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet.

The approach leaves out Palestinian voices, which is perhaps part of the point. The six officials interviewed here, who include the State Department veteran Aaron David Miller and the former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, came to the Palestinian perspective from the outside and did not always see it impartially.

What’s most interesting are their private impressions of world leaders. We hear just how much backstage managing it took to get Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, to shake hands at the Oslo peace accord signing in 1993, and how their rapport had developed by 1995, when Rabin was assassinated. Ehud Barak, who tried to take up Rabin’s mantle as a peacemaker at the 2000 Camp David summit, is portrayed as Rabin’s temperamental opposite — a would-be dealmaker who overestimated his abilities and misjudged the human factor.

The Human Factor
Rated PG-13. Violence in news clips. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. In select theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.



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