Peace in the Middle East feels like a mirage, a glimmering haze on a distant desert horizon. But in 1992, key figures from Israel and the PLO came together in a neutral place in Norway armed only with hope to frame a peace agreement on the fragile and beleaguered strip of land that is called Israel. Last year a hit play at Lincoln Center dramatized their dialogue of peace. And now, timed with the September 13 anniversary of the Oslo Accords, and the Jewish New Year, a new documentary, The Oslo Diaries, airs on HBO. For filmmakers Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, residents of Tel Aviv, in historic Rabin Square, with their two children, the story of the Oslo Accords is personal. They add to the existing record with diaries and fresh interviews with the men from Israel, Jewish and Palestinian leaders, who met for 1,000 days, recognizing one another’s right to exist, forging strong bonds, waging the terms of peace, and watching them turn to dust. Last week I had the opportunity to speak to the filmmakers: is the hope of peace kaput forever?
We feel peace is like driftwood and not reachable. 25 years the Oslo Accords, there are no negotiations. It is important to look back and shine a light on what happened, to hear the real voices behind the negotiations, to know there was a solution on the table, and that peace is possible, and ask, how can we reach this point again?
What are you adding to the existing discourse?
We bring voices from behind the scenes, from both sides. We looked for an access point and found Ron Pundak’s diary and tried to find other diaries. [Ron Pundak, along with Yair Hirschfeld, was a history professor who served as a negotiator.] After Ron’s death, his widow gave the diary to us, on papers from different Norwegian hotels. Writing is a rare archive.
Was it easy getting your interviews?
We make films that shed light on the dark side of history by showing its human side. Uri Savir [then director general of Israel’s foreign ministry] and Abu Ala [then PLO Minister of Finance] are still really close friends. We did not ask them about today which is so bleak. We wanted to hear what they felt back then. People were candid and intimate with us. They all wanted to talk. This is a story of triumph, and heartbreak when it fell apart.
Is Trump’s moving of the American Embassy to Jerusalem too inflammatory, an obstruction to peace?
Let us say, we are in a low point right now. We are filmmakers, not politicians. A peace agreement sounds like an intellectual subject. For Israelis, it is personal. People want to think about daily survival, soccer practice, not how to annihilate others. This is a cry for change. We would take any agreement. We don’t care who would frame that solution or how you name it--one state, two state --as long as it is a home for the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. We are looking for leadership. The current state cannot exist forever. 16,000 have died since the breakdown of the Oslo Accords. How long will it take until one of our leaders will stand up?