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Israel and the Arabs: Elusive Peace (2005)



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October 2005 (UK)  »

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Well done documentary but could benefit from background material.
6 September 2009 | by (Boulder, CO) – See all my reviews

This is an excellent documentary detailing the Arab-Israeli conflict from the years 1999 to 2005 (when the film was made). There is a wealth of documentary footage as well as interviews with most of the living major participants, and many second level players. You get a lot of behind-the-scenes information like what was going on with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak when he stalled getting off the plane prior to his meeting with President Hafez al-Assad of Syria at the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David in 2000. The interviews with President Clinton, Secretary of State Albright, Ehud Barak, Palestenian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, and Secretary of State Colin Powell are particularly interesting for their candor. You come to appreciate that world leaders are humans subject to the frustrations, irritations, slights, and so forth that we all are, and those emotions play a not insignificance role in negotiations. World leaders do seem to have exceptionally well developed egos that can frequently get in the way. For example, French President Jacques Chirac inserted himself into the middle of some delicate negotiations at an awkward time and derailed the proceedings. You come to understand the difficult situations leaders are placed in (or place themselves in). President George W. Bush wanted the support of the Saudis and the Arabs when he was planning the invasion of Iraq, but Israel was not too happy to see him cozy up to the Arabs.

Whereas I doubt that hardly anybody would come away from having seen this without learning a great deal, for a more complete understanding I think background material would have been valuable to establish how we got to where things were at the start of the film. I wanted to see a brief history about the creation of Isreal and the political boundaries at that time. A discussion of the 1967 Six-Day War and its results would be in order and how Arafat came to power (and exactly what power he had) would be of interest. Why is the area surrounding the Temple Mount such a hot button issue? Why is the right of return of Palestinians to Israel so significant? Details on the demographics would be relevant (Arabs living in Israel, Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip). Seeing the film encourages one to do a little independent research.

I came away without much hope that the Israeli-Palestenian conflict will be resolved in the foreseeable future.

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