Dror Moreh wrote this letter for Americans for Peace Now, because the only reasonable way to resolve the conflict is a two-state solution. And that's the message former Shin Bet directors make in his documentary The Gatekeepers.
What can you do to help? Our organization, Americans for Peace Now (APN), the sister organization of Shalom Achshav, offers you ways to make your voice heard. Through us, you can tell Israelis how you feel and what your vision of Israel's future is. Through us, you can tell elected officials and your fellow Americans that you support peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Through us, you can sustain Shalom Achshav, the Israeli public’s peace movement, which fights for a two-state solution in the face of the Israeli government's intransigence.
When you support APN, you are both influencing the Israeli public debate and advancing the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace in the U.S. APN uses a significant portion of the funds it raises in the U.S. to support Shalom Achshav. And it is fighting the battle of ideas in Washington and in communities around the country.
When you support APN and Shalom Achshav, you join those who work to secure Israel's future, you become a gatekeeper. Your tax-deductible contribution to APN is critical to the work we do, and is greatly appreciated.
As a token of our gratitude, for a contribution of $180 or more, we will send you a DVD of The Gatekeepers. Dror's film is a must-see, and his enclosed letter is a must-read.
In Israel everything is open for public debate. Sometimes that debate is so compelling that it changes people’s minds.
One Israeli who changed his mind was Ariel Sharon. Known for decades as a hardline security hawk, the champion of the Greater Israel vision, and the father of the settlements movement, Sharon, in the years before his incapacitating stroke changed his mind.
In 2003, Sharon shocked his fellow Likud Knesset members, as well as those on the Israeli Left, when he used the word “occupation” for the first time to describe Israel’s rule in the West Bank and Gaza. “To keep 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is in my opinion a bad thing, which cannot go on endlessly,” he declared.
What caused Sharon’s transformation, which led to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the uprooting of settlements there and in the northern West Bank? Years later, when working on a documentary on Sharon, I put the question to Sharon’s chief assistant, Dov Weissglass. Amongst other reasons he mentioned a critical interview that four former directors of the Shin Bet gave to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. In it, they condemned Israel’s decades-long rule of the Palestinians. Sharon read the interview and was deeply moved.
These four men, and the other two living former Shin Bet directors, also spoke out eloquently against the occupation in the film The Gatekeepers, which I directed. Over the past 30 years, these six men ran the security apparatus that rules the Occupied Territories. All of them concur that without bold political leadership to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, the occupation will lead us to destruction.
They concur that Israel must reach a negotiated peace with a Palestinian partner, that to remain a Jewish and democratic state, we must have a political divorce from the people and the land we took responsibility for in the 1967 Six-Day War. A two-state solution with security for Israel is the only way for Israel to move forward.
Anyone in Israel or abroad making the same conjecture is attacked as being naïve, as a dreamer who wants to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya," but in The Gatekeepers, the six former Shin Bet heads make the most authoritative endorsement imaginable of the futility of the conflict for both Israel and the Palestinians.
Are the gatekeepers of Israel’s security naïve as well?
Was Carmi Gillon (1994-96) starry eyed when he said in the film, "For Israel, it's too much of a luxury not to speak with our enemies. When we refuse to talk, we make a mistake."
Or was Ami Ayalon (1996-2000) being anti- Israel when he observed, "We’re winning all the battles... and we’re losing the war" and Avi Dichter (2000-2005) "You can’t make peace using military means?"
These are men whose life experiences have shorn them of illusions. They clearly see the danger to Israel if there is no two-state solution. Because if the Palestinians cannot achieve sovereign statehood, the only fallback position they are likely to recognize is Israeli citizenship within the framework of a single state.
In that case, the Palestinians will become the majority or large minority in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Either way, their presence will be too great for Israel to remain a Jewish state. The other one-state alternative, depriving the Palestinians of the rights of citizenship, will isolate Israel outside the community of democracies. And will create an apartheid state.
When I toured the United States last year with my film, right before the Oscars ceremony, I was happy to see how deep the realization is in the U.S. that a two-state solution is also in America's interest, whether your President is a Democrat or Republican. Israeli-Palestinian peace will allow the United States to pursue its extensive strategic interests in the Middle East: energy supply, the security of transport routes, democratization, countering Islamist terrorism, reducing the threat of radical and aggressive powers, and of course, supporting a secure and democratic Israel.
I made The Gatekeepers because I wanted the Israeli public, and friends of Israel overseas, to go through the same transformation as Ariel Sharon. I wanted people to realize how wrong and dangerous the status quo is and how our leaders are disserving us by not taking bold steps to change it.
For the Shin Bet heads, settler violence was just as dangerous as Palestinian violence. Attacks against mosques, churches, and individuals are carried out almost on a daily basis. Recently, settlers slashed the tires of Brig. Gen. Yoav Yarom, the IDF commander of the northern West Bank, while he was in a meeting with the leaders of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar to discuss ways to protect the community.
"We are here 24/7 — patrolling, guarding, arresting suspects," a soldier accompanying the general told Ynet, "and this [vandalizing of the general's vehicle] was just a spit in the face."
In my film, Yaakov Peri, who is now Israel's minister of science and technology, spoke of the accumulation of his experiences as Shin Bet head in 1988-1994: "These moments end up etched deep inside you," he said, holding his index finger near to his thumb, "and when you retire, you become a bit of a lefty."
It was a surprising admission, but one that can spur us to action. When I was in the United States to promote The Gatekeepers, I met with many Americans who care deeply about Israel. I told anyone willing to listen that being a true friend of Israel does not mean blindly supporting every policy of our government.
So what can you do to help? One way is to make your voice heard. Tell us Israelis how you feel. Tell us what your vision of Israel’s future is. Tell your fellow Americans. Contact your elected officials. I can’t tell you how influential American public opinion is here in Israel. To the average Israeli all the way to the highest government official, America matters. You matter. Now is the time to diversify your Israel "portfolio." Whether you visit Israel, buy its bonds, or buy its products, you must also support peace leading to an end of the occupation and leading to an establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state. And you don't have to take my word for it. Just listen to the elite of Israel's security apparatus.
The testimony of the six former heads of the Shin Bet confirms that it is not naïve to want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It is not softhearted to see the absence of a two-state solution as a threat to Israel's survival. And it is not a bad thing to be a bit of a "lefty." If anything, it is patriotic.
You too can be and need to be a gatekeeper to Israel’s future.
-Dror Moreh, Director
P.S. The pillars of Israeli democracy - the media, the Supreme Court, civil society - are under constant threat by hard-line, right-wing politicians and other extremists. I now feel the politicians and extremists are feeling the heat. Let’s turn it up.
Dror Moreh is an award-winning Israeli filmmaker. His most recent film, The Gatekeepers, was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2013 Academy Awards. The Gatekeepers is his fourth documentary, following — among others — a film about former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2007). Born (1961) and raised in Jerusalem, Moreh is a graduate of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Film and Television. The Gatekeepers won several awards, including Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film.