Israel's Oscar bid discomforts Netanyahu government

Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:09am EST
 
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Oscar-nominated Israeli documentary has brought little joy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, the focus of the film's criticism of Israel's policy toward the Palestinians.

Featuring searingly confessional interviews with six former chiefs of the shadowy security service Shin Bet, "The Gatekeepers" portrays the 46-year-old West Bank occupation and Jewish ultranationalism as threats to Israel's survival.

Its run for Sunday's Academy Awards comes at an awkward time for the conservative Netanyahu. He narrowly won an election last month that favored centrist rivals who, echoing world powers, demand he revive long-stalled Palestinian statehood talks.

Usually quick to congratulate Israelis who succeed abroad, Netanyahu has kept mum on "The Gatekeepers", which an aide said he had not seen. Reaction from other officials has been frosty.

Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said the Shin Bet veterans' interviews, in which they discuss episodes such as the agency-ordered killing of two captured Gazan bus hijackers and a plot by Jewish extremists to blow up a major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem, had been edited "to serve the Palestinian narrative".

"What was presented there was presented in a really one-sided manner, and therefore the film is slanted," Yaalon, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party and a former military chief, told Israel's Army Radio.

Asked about the film during last month's World Economic Forum in Davos, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, the lone centrist in Netanyahu's outgoing coalition, offered tepid praise for its "testament to the fact that in Israel you can talk more freely, perhaps, than in any other place".

SPANNING DIVIDES   Continued...

 
Israeli director Dror Moreh sits for a portrait in Tel Aviv February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Nir Elias