But mostly their job has been -- and continues to be -- to monitor and control the Palestinian population. They describe learning to speak fluent Palestinian Arabic and memorizing the layout of every single village in the West Bank and Gaza, conveying the suffocating sense that no Palestinian civilian ever has freedom of movement or privacy. They coldly describe summary executions and targeted assassinations that took the lives of many innocent bystanders.
Remorse? There is no room for remorse here, they say. But when Moreh confronts them with the fact that their policies have only perpetuated a cycle of violent retaliation, with no end in sight, they blink. And they acknowledge -- remarkably, with no hesitation -- that they have been engaged in short-term tactics with no long-term strategy.
"We are winning the battle and losing the war," says Ami Ayalon, Shin Bet chief from 1996 to 2000.
"We have made the lives of the Palestinians unbearable," says Carmi Gillon, his predecessor.
"The future is gray and bleak," says Avraham Shalom, who headed the Shin Bet from 1980 to 1986.
"We have become a Shin Bet state," confirms Yuval Diskin, who retired from the Shin Bet in 2011 - i.e., a state that is ruled by its internal security service rather than governed by its elected representatives.
Forget looking for a leader with vision -- these men present a grim picture of an Israeli state without leadership of any kind. They are tough, humorless, professional paranoiacs who have committed many evil deeds, but they talk like peaceniks. The only way to resolve this conflict is to sit down and negotiate, they agree. And yes, that includes talking to Hamas.
Dror Moreh is forthright about having made this film in order to spark a conversation in Israel that would lead to positive change. A patriot and a liberal, he is terribly worried about his country's future. "I'm not interested in people who look away from their reflection in a cracked, rusty mirror because they don't like what they see," he told me during an interview in New York. "I'm interested in the people who can look unflinchingly at their reflection, even if they don't like it."
The Gatekeepers was released in Israel in January. It was widely reviewed and drew audiences into cinemas around the country for sold out screenings. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has not seen the film and has no intention of doing so, the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles hosted a reception for Moreh. Consul General David Siegel has embraced the film as evidence that Israel is a vibrant democracy that supports a diversity of opinion, even if it is highly critical of the state's institutions and government.
The path of Five Broken Cameras, however, was far more difficult. Davidi said, during an interview conducted in New York, that none of the commercial cinemas in Tel Aviv would screen it; instead, the film found a home at the Cinematheque, the local art house cinema. For the most part, local critics ignored the film. But then it won an award at the Sundance Film Festival, and laudatory reviews from major newspapers like the New York Times poured in.