Keshev's Second Report: 'Quiet, We’re Disengaging!'
Introduction: On February 8, 2005, at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) declared a ceasefire after more than four years of Intifada. Since the summit, the two sides have exchanged mutual recriminations on intentional and unintentional violations of the understandings that were reached. This report examines how the major Israeli media outlets covered the ceasefire, how they interpreted the actions (both positive and negative) of both sides, and how they dealt with each side’s pronouncements concerning violations of the ceasefire by the other side.
The report focuses on a period of 32 days, between April 9 and May 10, 2005, and examines patterns of coverage in six major Israeli media outlets: The newspapers Ha’aretz, Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma’ariv, and the nightly television news broadcasts on Channels 1, 2 and 10.
In a long and difficult conflict like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, periods of ceasefire and relative calm—like the one examined in this report—are no less important than more violent periods. The two sides arrive at a ceasefire when they are exhausted, injured and distrustful. Almost naturally, both sides tend to overlook cases in which they themselves violate the agreements that led to the ceasefire and to see in the other side’s violations proof that it intends to resume the circle of violence. Each side tends to see its violations as unintentional and the other side’s violations as the direct result of policy. Moreover, in situations like these, decision makers (in our case, Israeli decision makers) are likely to issue declarations that are not meant to strengthen the ceasefire, but rather, to prepare the ground for blaming the other side in the event that the ceasefire ends.
This is why it is important that media outlets, which provide their consumers with information on this unstable state of affairs, provide balanced, reliable and checked information that attempts to independently examine events in the field and critically interpret official pronouncements. As this report shows, the media outlets examined in this report did not perform their duty in this regard.
The first part of the report (Sections 2 – 5) concerns coverage of Israel’s actions and failures to act; the second part concerns coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s actions and failures to act. In both parts, this report does not attempt to determine to what extent each side fulfilled its commitments, nor how “justified” its accusations were against the other side. The report, rather, seeks to examine news coverage of these questions and to scrutinize to what extent the media outlets provided their consumers with information that was checked, investigated and complete on the complex reality of the fragile ceasefire—information that can enable media consumers to attain an informed outlook on the current stage of the conflict.