The Human Factor

Directed by: Dror Moreh

Written by: Oron Adar and Dror Moreh

Featuring: Gamal Helal, Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer, Robert Malley, Aaron Miller, Dennis Ross

                In hindsight things are obvious that were not obvious from the outset.

Throughout history, the world’s superpowers have felt it incumbent upon themselves to exert influence on other parts of the world, sometimes strategically, other times economically, with the end goal of stabilizing areas that either threaten or could benefit national interests.

Securing peace in the Middle East has been on the United States’ radar for more than 30 years. “The Human Factor,” from Academy Award–nominated Dror Moreh, explores the efforts of mediators, diplomats and administrations to broker a peace accord between Palestine and Israel.

Dror tells the tale of these efforts through the eyes of the American mediator participants in the peace process, creating a rawness that I hadn’t expected while demonstrating that the diplomatic effort is not always what it seems.

The efforts to bring the two sides together followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaving the United States as the world’s superpower. In 1991 under the George H.W. Bush administration, diplomats began bringing Palestine and Israel together to find common ground.

The documentary paints the difficulties in that effort as both sides hated each other.

I was 15 when these peace talks began, though I don’t think it is accurate to say that they began. Instead, the overtures started in earnest. As the Bush administration transitioned to the Clinton administration, the new administration seized the former’s efforts to seal the deal in his first year. “The Human Factor” spends a good deal of time on the Clinton administration’s efforts because, by in large, this is where the most significant movements occurred.

“The Human Factor” remained unbiased through its solid and prescient visuals, using both news clips and photos to carry the story. The strength in Moreh’s visual take is in the 3D recreations of essential images, especially those in black and white, giving us a sense that hindsight is indeed 20/20. There was a depth to these critical moments that fascinated me; an urgency and empathy about how the narrative unfolded make you think about what the diplomatic process is all about.

Ego plays a big factor in the proceedings as well, but Moreh doesn’t focus on it. Rather, he puts a diplomat’s eyes on, delving deeper into the challenges of bringing two avowed enemies together. More importantly, we’re reminded that real lives are at stake; it isn’t just about one country trying to bring peace and stability to another corner of the world.

I especially appreciated Dennis Ross’s involvement in the documentary. Ross, who served under President George H. W. Bush, President Clinton, and as a special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, offered a very humane appraisal of the entire affair, which, even through the Trump administration, still is being worked out.

While there are very deadly serious consequences with diplomacy that do not warrant a laugh, but I have to smirk at the fact that I’ve been witness to these efforts over the years. It wasn’t that I didn’t care; I wasn’t into politics; however, I now understand that a solution to bring both sides together can be achieved. In fact, “The Human Factor” starts by saying that “every secretary of state wants to reinvent the wheel” when it comes to these efforts.

I see now that peace takes a long time. When we stop focusing on lines on a map and realize that real needs aren’t being met, we need to take a harder look at the past to make progress in the future, hopefully.

“The Human Factor” is Highly Recommended.