Open Journal of Political Science
2013. Vol.3, No.1, 8-15
Published Online January 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
The Role of the Press in the Unilateral Disengagement
Plan of Israel from Gaza Strip
Yaron Katz
School of Communications, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
Email: yaron@ykat
Received October 27th, 2011; revised February 9th, 2012; accepted Marc h 6th, 2012
The Disengagement Plan is the name assigned to the plan enacted in the summer of 2005 to evict all Is-
raelis and military bases from Gaza Strip and four isolated settlements in northern Samaria and to with-
draw unilaterally. The plan was controversial, yet it won the support of the majority of the cabinet and the
Knesset members, as well as the support in Israel and the world. The eviction process of the residents was
accompanied by vast activities of the army and police forces in fear of violent acts by the evacuees, and
by extensive media coverage. It was one of the longest and most covered events in the history of Israel
and intensified the conflict between security needs and free press. In democracies such as Israel, which
faces security needs on permanent basis, the media are expected to carry social responsibility duties of not
publishing information that is sensitive to national security. It is commonly agreed that although Israel is a
democratic state where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are cornerstones of its existence, in all
that relates to security things should be different, and security issues are above the need of the media to
publish and the need of the public to know. The position of the press in the disengagement and the way
they dealt with this dilemma are analyzed in this study based on covering reports in the main Israeli daily
newspaper—Yediot Achronot—during the period from January 1, 2005 through August 24, 2005, when
the evacuation of all Israelis from Gaza Strip was completed.
Keywords: Press; Coverage; Israel; Conflict; Security
Essential aspects of democracy are freedom of information
and freedom of the press. In addition to the provision of essen-
tial information to the public, these basic principles are vital to
social and political developments in democratic societies. The
free flow of information allows public debate and political par-
ticipation and enhances the influence of public opinion. The
free flow of information, with the advent of new technology,
opens up new opportunities to spread democracy and values of
free speech.
But there is a fundamental conflict between the principles of
open coverage dominated by global media services having no
local obligations, and security needs handled by security agen-
cies and intelligence services that need to rely on secrecy by
preventing the publication of their activities. This conflict has
identified the Israeli society for many years, and has been in-
tensified since the globalization of media coverage.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been an ongoing dispute
since the establishment of the State of Israel and shows no defi-
nite endpoint. Its magnitude changes according to periods of
war and violence and periods of truce and temporary intervals
of violence, but its impact is central and const antly reflect ed in
the life of the Israeli society. The political purpose of the Dis-
engagement Plan was to make a clear separa tion between Israel
and Gaza Strip, based on the understanding that no peace
agreement or any form of mutual agreement can be reached.
This assumption was made even clearer, when in May 2005,
three months before the disengagement, as the terrorist organi-
zation of Hamas won the parliamentary election in Gaza Strip.
Subsequent to IDF pullout, armed Hamas forces took control of
the authority and formed a government. Hamas calls for the
destruction of the state of Israel.
The political events demonstrate political conflict that identi-
fies Israel. According to the position of the past prime ministers,
Yitzchak Rabin and Ehud Barak, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
is a continuing dispute with no ending point, during which there
are periods of calm. The Israeli goal according to this opinion is
to assure that the calm periods would last as long as possible.
This statement was made publically by Barak, who led, as the
Israel Defense Minister, the military operation in Gaza Strip in
December 2008-January 2009 (Operation Cast Lead). This ope-
ration waged as a reaction to rockets fire into Israel in spite of
the disengagement. And indeed, it was only four years after that
another military operation by Israel took place in Gaza Strip, in
November 2012, again after rockets fire into Israel (Operation
Pillar of Defense). In both operations, the Israeli army did not
enter the refugee camps in Gaza and launched a limited opera-
tion that lasted until a cease fire was reached following pressure
by global political forces, mainly the United States and Egypt.
Indeed, the conflict is impacted by the involvement of politi-
cal and global factors and gains a widespread and constant cov-
erage by the international media, especially in times of military
conflicts or peace initiatives. The role of global forces is evi-
dent in the impact of new media services on Israeli society
(Gilboa & Katz, 2001; Katz, 1999). It is evident though that
Operation Cast Lead lasted three weeks as the Bush Admini-
stration did not pressure Israel to a cease fire, while Operation
Pillar of Defense lasted only one week as the Obama Admini-
stration put a lot pressure on Israel, including a mission of the
Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to the region. Another nota-
ble aspect of the two military operations is that both took place
after the elections in the United States and ended before the
new administration took office.
Nevertheless, the unilateral disengagement by Israel from
Gaza Strip is different from other events taking place in the
Middle East in being an unliterary act carried out by Israel, as
part of an organized and conceived plan of the government.
Different from other peace initiatives or military operations, this
was a well-planned operation that was executed after months of
preparations involving government, military and media sources,
and was widely supported by the global community.
Gaza strip area was until 1948 part of the western Negev in
Israel. The expression “Gaza Strip” struck roots when the bor-
der between Israel and Egypt was erected following the cease
fire agreements in 1949. It is a narrow strip of land between
Israel and Egypt, 5 to 7 kilometers wide and reaches 12 kilo-
meters in the southern part, and 45 kilometers long, with a total
area of 360 square kilometers. The area was occupied by Israel
in the six day war, in June 1967. The strip is considered the
most crowded area in the world, with more than three million
residents, half of each live in Gaza City and the rest in crowded
refugee camps. The vast majority of the strip’s population is
Sunni Muslim (3).
Following Israeli occupation of the area, Israeli settlements
were built on the strip. Katif bloc (Gush Katif) was founded at
the beginning of the eighties by a group of representatives of
communities from Yesha movement (a movement of settlement s
in Yehuda, Shomron and Azza-Judea, Samaria and Gaza—the
land occupied by Israel in 1967) and Yamit evacuees (which
was returned by Israel to Egypt after the peace agreement).
7500 people lived in the jurisdiction of the regional council of
Gaza coast in 22 settlements. 6000 residents lived in north Sa-
maria in four isolated communities.
The goal of this study is to examine the role of press cover-
age in major political and military campaigns in the Middle-
East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Maoz
(2006), the news media are a major source of public informa-
tion on political processes and can be regarded as a crucial tool
for mobilizing opinions in political and social conflicts and dis-
putes. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, news-reported infor-
mation concerning the opponents’ response to a compromise
proposal in conflict can influence attitudes and assessments of
the parties concerned. Tenenboim-Weinblatt (2008) found that
the mainstream press—in tune with political elites and public
opinion—largely supported the political and military goals.
When the disengagement had finally begun—after months of
preparation and fiery debates—the Israeli press was in a highly
ambivalent position with respect to the trauma discourse. Bec-
kerman (2005) found that the position of the media and their
unequivocal support for the plan had an important role in the
success of the IDF media campaign, as they prepared the public
for it and helped to insure the steady 60 percent of support it
The study examines the media coverage of the main daily
newspaper in Israel, Yediot Achronot, from the beginning of
2005 until the disengagement implementation, at the end of Au-
gust 2005. The paper discusses the dilemma of the press in the
disengagment plan, as the media are expected to carry social
responsibility duties of not publishing information that is sensi-
tive to national security. In contrast, changes in approach re-
garding the need of the media to publish and the need of the
public to be part of the political debate have created a new so-
cial structure that maintains and deploys the conflict between
national security and media coverage.
The “Security Culture”
The impact of media coverage on the issue of national secu-
rity has always been one of the cornerstones of Israel’s very
existence. Israel has traditionally granted freedom of expression
to the media in every area but state security, and was unique in
the world in the need to balance national security issues against
the imposition of the media. The need to reconcile both free
press and national security is a topic that has long occupied
Israeli society. Debate has focused on the imperative of provid-
ing full coverage of events even during wartimes or other secu-
rity threats while not harming state security. The main dilem-
mas have been whether or not to publicize events that might
elicit violence or weaken morale; the way of maintaining credi-
bility despite security needs and censorship limitations; and
how to properly balance between the public’s right to know and
the restrictions of censorship (for instance: Eisenberg, Caplan,
Sokoloff, & Abu-Nomer, 2003; Goldscherder, 2002; Kimber-
ling, 2003; Levi-Paur, Sheffer, & Vogal, 1999; Shafir & Peled,
In examining social changes and political dilemmas in Israel,
it is evident that the army is an integral part of the life in Israel
(for example: Caspit, 2002; Shavit, 2002). This process is uni-
que to Israel, as national security and freedom of the press are
two grand domains of its society: it is considered as a state with
free press and at the same time it is still in a state of war. This
unique situation requires limitations on publication of informa-
tion that relates to national security affairs; however this con-
cept is being threatened by global media coverage of Israel’s
and Middle East affairs (Hezog, 2004).
The principle of free communications differentiates Israel
from the countries surrounding her. The media are considered
to be non dependent on the government and enjoy wide free-
dom of expression in every field except that of security. The
security situation that has besieged Israel for many years, fol-
lowing wars and terrorist activities, caused the imposing of
bans on media coverage in matters connected to the security of
the state. The “security culture” that characterizes the Israeli so-
ciety was formed since the security subject is perceived as one
of central placing in the national conscience and has central
ramifications in all areas of life. Israel can be referred to as a
conscript society in which not only the army but the public in
general is ready for enlistment for the sake of what the gov-
ernment defines as a national interest.
The “security culture” has many social ramifications, as the
need to bridge between free communications and national secu-
rity is a subject that continuously and intensely engages the
Israeli society. Its impact is expressed in the need to supply
up-to-date information at the time of war or during military ac-
tivities while maintaining the utmost value of security. Since
dealing with the dilemma of reporting events that could cause
violence or hurt national moral, it is necessary to present a reli-
able reality while allowing expression of a wide variety of ex-
isting opinions and a balance between the right of the public to
know and censorship limitations (Melman, 1993).
Another aspect the dilemma is that the strategy of Israel De-
fense Forces (IDF) is defensive while its operations and tactics
are offensive and cut to the heart of national identity. The dis-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 9
tinction between defensive values and offensive operations can
provide the means to understand the unique role of the IDF in
Israeli heritage and society, and the sever impact on the Israeli
society when such distinction is broken (Sucharov, 2005).
Global and local trends that influenced the change of cover-
age policy on security matters caused a change in the role of the
media in society: while in the past, the army had sole authority
to ban advertisement of information in different fields, today
local media bear most of the weight of preserving a balance
between the right of the public to know and the protection of
state security, and their role is to balance between local and
global trends in coverage of security matters.
Today security issues are being discussed by local media
with almost no limitations, including detailed descriptions of
military operations and personal stories of soldiers, public dis-
cussion on security issues and peace negotiation, including cri-
ticism of government actions and plans, debates on security
needs, publication of official reports and exposure of past
events with the inclusion of sensitive information on army op-
erations—some of them subject to criticism and intense public
debates. Once initial information had gotten out, because Israeli
authorities cannot control foreign media, it is virtually impossi-
ble to prohibit publication of additional information. Foreign
media reports serve as a catalyst in this process, since global-
ization and technology are not obliged to the limitations im-
posed by the military authorities. These include global media
services, advanced technology that allows global and unlimited
coverage, such as cellular and satellite telephones, portable
computers, and ready-available satellite links, and global ser-
vices providing unlimited information (such as the Internet).
The communications revolution created a social change fol-
lowing the exposure to global media coverage that is also avai-
lable to Israelis. The advent of new media has changed local
media policy regarding state security and the perception of the
public of the role of the media in publishing information that
was once considered classified. If in the past it was possible to
prevent exposure of information for security reasons, today—
given the existence of global means that do not consider local
rules and are not under the authority of the Israeli government
—the new reality obligates a compromise between global in-
fluences and local needs. As a result there is a change in the
social attitude to subjects that in the past were defined as being
security sensitive and whose advertisement could hurt state
The concept of national security, which Israel is identified
with since its establishment, has been under siege with the
growing impact of global television transmissions, which can
be picked up in Israel also. Following the availability of classi-
fied information in terms of national security, the legitimacy of
all governments, and Israel’s in particular, to regulate broad-
casting became questionable. New technological means, such
as satellites and the Internet—together with traditional means of
information delivery that are readily-available around the world,
such as newspapers, magazines, and radio stations (some of
them can be received via satellite)—have forced policy changes
in regards to national security affairs.
Israel has been pushed to control its press for reasons of na-
tional security ever since its independence, as the need to limit
freedom of the press for reasons of national security has been a
matter of national consensus. This is now changing, mainly
through the impact of global media coverage, and the commit-
ment to protect freedom of the press in Israel has become al-
most equally strong. This can be explained in that the main role
of the media is in the impact of public opinion, while extensive
news coverage changes the way governments operate in war-
times. Although public opinion and media organizations gener-
ally agree that during wartimes censorship becomes acceptable,
they do not distinct Israel as being in a constant state of war.
There is a fundamental difference in the way global media see
security matters in wartimes and during other times, even if dif-
ferent sorts of military activities are still in progress (for exam-
ple: Avraham, 2003; Horowitz, 1985; Peri, 1999; Lissak, 1992;
Pedatzur, 1998).
The “security culture” that stands for preventing exposure of
security information was badly shaken following the inability to
control information coming in through different media sources.
The dillema of free coverage and security needs had been in-
tensified during the evacuation process. The media had a big
role, as the continuous coverage of the position of the govern-
ment and the army coupled with openness to the painful process
was an influential factor on a non violent evacuation. The posi-
tion of the press of preferring to show the emotional hardship of
the evacuation rather than engaging in hopeless battle against
the military forces constituted a significant and major factor in
the impressive success of the military operation and total reali-
zation of the goals of the Israeli cabinet’s resolution to evacuate
the Israeli settlements from Gaza Strip.
The Press Position
The research examines the reports publicized in the main
daily newspaper of Israel—Yediot Achronot—from August 1,
2005 through August 24, 2005, with the completion of the eva-
cuation of Israeli citizens. At the beginning of the coverage, the
paper focused on the relationship between the army and the
residents and expressed the army’s position on the fear from the
residents’ violence. Reports appeared daily in the paper’s main
headlines creating potential scenarios during the evacuation. On
January 4, 2005 the headline warned of soldiers’ refusals to
take part in the evacuation and even mentioned the possibility
of massive refusal. An article was printed the next day under
the headline “stuck in the mud—an army’s senior: it is as hard
with the settlers as with the Palestinians”, which depicted the
IDF in a favorable light and the settlers as jeopardizing a his-
toric process. The articles printed on the following days alerted
from potential scenarios: “The horror script”—a front line arti-
cle warning from bloodshed and “the Refusenik Brigade”—
about reserve officers who had signed a letter stating that they
would object to being drafted to implement the disengagement.
Later on, favorable articles about Sharon and the army’s posi-
tion were published: “the Prime minister defends the soldiers”,
and “Sharon met yesterday with the soldiers, policemen and the
border guards”. On the next days, the army’s actions against the
refusal appeared: “the refusal’s storm—the punishment: expul-
sion from the army”, “the wife of the head of the Manpower
branch: I live in fear for my son”—the words of a senior offi-
cer’s wife, portraying the settlers in a negative light, “The dis-
charge”—on discharging reserve officers, “disengagement at
any cost,” on taking stricter steps against settlers who would
thwart the evacuation, “fellow sufferers”—the story of two bro-
thers who found themselves on the other side of the conflict: a
settler from Netzarim against his brother, an officer, one of the
commanders of the evacuating forces.
During the month of February 2005, the articles relayed the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
conflict between the settlers and the state while magnifying the
foreseeable conflict, emphasizing the potential risks and the
political implications of the historical process: “the demonstra-
tion of the 150 thousands”, an article about a show of force by
those opposing the disengagement in front of the Knesset, “the
goal: refusal in the General Security Forces”, about the settlers
attempts to convince policemen to refuse orders of evacuation,
and “the settlers: we will hunger strike”—a report about set-
tlers’ leaders threatening to take measures of desperation to
shock the country. Other articles presented the dilemmas of the
settlers of fighting the army: “outside they demonstrate, inside
negotiate”—about the deliberations on the monetary compensa-
tions for the evacuees, and “signed the evacuation”, on 38 fa-
milies from two settlements in the northern part of Gush Katif
(Eli Sinai and Nissanit), who signed an agreement to move to a
community next to the nearby city of Ashkelon. This article
presented the signing as a victory of the disengagement author-
ity in the battle against the settlers, but the following articles
continued to feature stories on those opposed the evacuation
and the risks that the security forces face: “the incitement is
running wild—hate letters”—about threatening letters sent to
ministers, “preparing for hundreds of detainees every day”—
about the fear from war of attrition by the opponents to the eva-
cuation to break out before the disengagement implementation,
“the settlers: we will fight even at the cost of our lives”, “3000
weapons are in the hands of the settlers”, “the horror script”
—about a secret document found in the police according to
which most of the settlers will violently resist the evacuation,
and “the head of the National Security Forces warns from the
extreme right wing: dozens are ready to murder Sharon”.
The paper covered the political resolutions favorably, even
when the process showed difficulties. The report on the chief of
staff resignation was presented as a matter of fact and briefly,
and already on the following day the paper continued to report
on the progress of the political process of passing the Evacua-
tion—Compensation law: “leave Gaza and get two million
shekels”, and “the Knesset approved the evacuation of the set-
tlements”. The paper referred also to the emotional side of the
evacuation’s decision on the Prime Minister Sharon, the man
who had built the now dismantled settlements. The reports’
headlines relayed Sharon’s feelings: “the hardest decision of
my life,” a nd “tears in the eyes”. Also the refe rence to the new
Chief of Staff was positive: “Chief of Staff Halutz: the expecta-
tions from Halutz are sky-high”—an article depicting the first
Chief of Staff appointed from the air force who must pass suc-
cessfully the disengagement test, especially in light of the dan-
ger of violence, as described in ot her ar ticles.
Following the approval of the disengagement in the Knesset,
on February 2, the press coverage started to refer to the pullout
as a done deal, hence the new forming reality was described:
“the State of Israel is saying goodbye to Gaza”, “in two months
the first settlement is being evacuated from Gaza”, “eviction
orders are on the way”, “a farewell to Gaza”, along with articles
about the planned implementation of the disengagement proc-
ess: 5000 policemen and tens of dozens of soldiers will partici-
pate in the operation encircling Gush Katif in six rings of secu-
rity, a long convoy of policemen and soldiers will enter to eva-
cuate the settlers, while the evacuating forces will be the most
experienced and trained border guards and policemen in han-
dling situations of disturbing the peace, and hundreds more
policemen will go through training in handling the evacuation.
The plan was presented as extensive and thorough planning to
be carried out by the most experienced police and military man-
During March the paper focused on presenting the settlers’
state of mind. Issues raised included deliberations on monetary
compensation to the evacuees, coverage of the sensitive aspects
of the process in a regular column recounting each time the story
of one evacuated family (the column was titled “my home”), the
position of those opposing the evacuation, and the government ’s
position vis-à-vis the various camps among the residents of
Gush Katif—those who are ready to cooperate and those who
are planning to resist the evacuation.
The paper’s headlines were extreme. On one hand they de-
scribed the generous monetary compensation the evacuees
would receive: “an offe r to the evacuees: vill a by the sea”, “the
caravillas (the caravans that were supposed to host the evacu-
ated settlers temporarily) of the evacuees”, “2025 do-it-yourself
housing units for the settlers in the southern communities”, “5
star evacuation”—on the evacuation of the settlers to hotels as
temporary housing after the pullout, and “give more money, get
silence”—an article portraying the settlers as being greedy. On
the other hand, the portrayal of the potential opposition pointed
to violent evacuation intentions: “Gush Katif is hoarding for a
siege”, “hundreds of settlers have changed their addresses to
Gush Katif. That is how those who opposed to disengagement
are preparing for the evacuation day”, “settlers are threatening:
we will burn more roads”, “settlers on the road”—a factual re-
port on those opposed to the disengagement blocking main
roads inside the country, and “a road commando”—a descrip-
tion of the actions of the anti-disengagement as a clandestine
and underground organization.
The government position was reported as being unequivocal,
in a script similar to that presented in January: first a sympa-
thizing attitude toward the government vis-à-vis the violent set-
tlers then, the army’s plan to fight those resisting the evacua-
tion, and finally the outcome: the government policy is a suc-
cess. The sympathizing reports to the government presented the
determination of the Prime minister: “Sharon disengaged from
the last obstacle”—on the Knesset’s rejection of the disengage-
ment referendum, and “Sharon at all cost”—on the wide public
support for Sharon after four years in service. The army’s ac-
tion was described in the plan to fight the opponents to the dis-
engagement: “the opponents to the disengagement who would
interrupt the traffic are expected to get lengthy imprisonment”,
and “the marine commando will evacuate settlers through the
sea”. The expected outcome of the struggle appeared in an arti-
cle which presented the success of the government’s policy:
“Eitam proposes to collect weapons”—on the proposal made by
an anti-disengagement cabinet member (Effi Eitam) to collect
weapons from the settlers, explained as though the minister and
evacuees had come to terms with the evacuation’s reality.
Deliberations on the plans of post disengagement implement-
tation had commenced on April. The articles raised a wide
range of issues, among them the question of what would hap-
pen to the homes, synagogues and cemeteries, as well as alter-
native housing units for the evacuees. The paper’s headlines
stressed the government position: “a plan: the homes will be
given away, the synagogues demolished”, “Sharon: cemeteries
will not be evacuated forcibly”, “Sharon will oppose demolition
of homes in Gush Katif”, “let’s bring in the bulldozers”—on
Sharon’s words durin g a visit to Nitzani m dunes, the place w her e
the new homes of settlers were built, “the entire Gush Katif will
move to Nitzanim”, “move as one bloc”—on Sharon’s words in
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 11
a meeting with the evacuees, “farewell to the communities”—
on Sharon’s decision to allow only for the residents of Gush
Katif to conduct a farewell ceremony from the evacuated com-
munities, and “settlers in Nitzanim”—an article about the nego-
tiation between the Settlers and the government on relocating to
Nitzanim. Other articles dealt with the army’s assessments on
the security state after the withdrawal: “the intifada will be re-
newed in the fall”—on the Palestinian reaction to the unilateral
withdrawal, and on the other hand “disengagement is expected
—disengagement phase 2”—an article about the government
future plans for additional unilateral disengagement from Judea
and Samaria in case there would not be a Palestinian partner,
and two days later an article was publicized in response about
“a storm erupted after the disclosure of the disengagement
phase 2” to which Sharon had denied its existence. Towards the
end of April positive news appeared on the issue: “Israel and
the Palestinians opened discussions to coordinate the disen-
Throughout this period reports kept on alerting from violence
during evacuation. Also, the front page headlines on this issue
presented the army’s position: “concern: a Jewish terrorist act
to thwart the disengagement”, “15 thousand security men will
evacuate the settlers”, “Sharon: It feels like on the eve of civil
war”, “military policemen will make sure that the evacuators
would not loot the homes of the settlers”, and “the big war
game—the disengagement”—an article about an extensive army
exercise where all possible scenarios that may occur during the
evacuation had been tested—from settlers’ passive resistance to
barricading inside the homes threatening to commit suicide or
to fight with live ammunition.
At that time the first critical article against Sharon was pub-
lished: “we are on the way toward a big mess”—about the
pullout ensuing problems: there are no alternative housing solu-
tions for the evacuees, factories’ owners are facing unemploy-
ment, there are no vocational solutions for others, no alternative
for farmers’ employment, schools are not ready to absorb stu-
dents, and it is not clear where the cemeteries will be relocated.
But the criticism stopped, instead the paper publishes articles
about the commencement of the disengagement, when four
months before the scheduled date for the pullout, the army had
started to remove military equipment from the bases in Gaza
Strip. At the same time, articles continued to warn against the
perils of the evacuation: “concern: demonstrators will attack
Gush Katif police”, “toward the disengagement: policemen will
exert reasonable force against children”, “49% of the settlers:
during the evacuation we will obey the army not the rabbis.
39% will obey the rabbis”. Towards the end of the month the ar-
ticles begin to express possible solutions to the problems: “Big
synagogues would be demolished”, and “the state acquired land
for the evacuees”.
Coverage of the Evacuation
In the period that started on May 2005, three months before
the disengagement operation, many articles about the govern-
ment position favoring the disengagement against potential
dangers from violence by those opposed to disengagement were
published: “Sharon: the disengagement will assure a Jewish
majority”, “the Prime Minister will approach the Palestinians
with a formal proposal”, “Sharon: there is a solution to all eva-
cuees”, “the disengagement will be coordinated with the Pales-
tinian”, “Sharon: I will implement the disengagement even if all
roads would be blocked’, “the Prime Minister put pressure and
the new caravillas were brought in to Nitzanim”, and “evacua-
tion order”—on the army plans for evacuation day. On the
other hand, articles about police investigation on suspicion of
corruption by the Prime Minister were few, published only in
response to discussions on the issue in the Knesset. Little focus
was put on the political dispute in the cabinet on the disengage-
ment, and the coverage emphasized the strong and unequivocal
position of the Prime Minister to the opposition inside the gov-
ernment and the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament).
The media coverage seldom reported on the government’s
solutions for alternative housing for the settlers, although re-
view of the events since the disengagement showed that the
government position, as it was expressed in the media, failed to
present the true reality, and many of the evacuees had still not
received permanent alternative housing. Other than one report
—“buds of failure”—a review conducted by Yediot Achronot
showing that 65 days before the evacuation the government had
not yet met the plans regarding the evacuees, the reports that
dealt with the alternative housing issue expressed the unequi-
vocal position of the government: “be quite and get Nitzanim”
—on the government’s position that those resisting the evacua-
tion would not be able to move to the alternative housing loca-
tion, “you have one week to decide”, on the government an-
nouncement to the evacuees that they have to make a decision
on their alternative housing, and “the majority in Gush Katif:
let’s move to Nitzanim”.
A few reports dealt with the international implications of the
process, and referred mainly to the US position: “the president
of the US promised Sharon: in return for withdrawing from
Gaza you will receive a special aid for developing the Negev
and the Galilee”, and “Israel will request from the US half a
billion dollars for the disengagement”. Also, there was little co-
verage on predictions of what would happen after the withdra-
wal: “rockets will continue to be launched after the disengage-
ment”, “vict ory to Hamas in regional elections”, and “Hamas is
building an army”.
The position of the press in analyzing the outcome of the
disengagement needs to be examined in light of the events that
actually happened since then. The rise of Hamas to power be-
fore the disengagement implementation and the ongoing rock-
ets launching into Israel thereafter, including the need for two
large military operations in Gaza Strip, had to be significant
factors which the media should have brought up for public dis-
cussion before the implementation of the evacuation.
The paper chose to present the unequivocal position of the
Prime Minister even on this issue, despite the claims for secu-
rity risks in case the disengagement plan is implemented: “to
stop the disengagement if Hamas will be elected”—the foreign
minister announcement rejected by Sharon claiming that the
disengagement is a unilateral process to be executed unrelated
to the election of the Palestinian Authority, and “the Chief of
staff: we will decide when to react”—a response to a rocket fire
killing three workers in Gush Katif.
Along with the sympathetic presentation of the government
position, the violent actions of the settlers appeared unequivo-
cally in the headlines: “a soldier was injured in a demonstration
against the fence”, “2 border guards squadrons will deal with
the Jewish rioters”, “soldiers begin training in breaking into
settlers homes”, “police officers came to talk with the settlers in
Homesh and were warned”, and in the sub headlines: “when the
evacuating forces come we will connect ourselves to gas bal-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
loons”. The plans of those opposed to disengagement were
inserted in big headlines: “the new weapon, a law suit against
each officer”, “roads blockers, the new system”, “attrition war”,
“we won the police”—on blocking main intersections around
Israel as a protest against the disengagement, “that’s how we
will paralyze the disengagement”—on the disengagement op-
ponents’ plan to jeopardize the army’s plans, “two months be-
fore the evacuation: 20 new families in Sa-Nur settlement”,
“settlers are threatening the life of a policeman”, “suspicion:
those opposed to disengagement volunteering to the police for ce
in order to thwart the disengagement”.
Other reports relayed the determined position of the army
against those opposed to disengagement: “a soldier could shoot
a settler who had opened fire—only with the approval of a sen-
ior officer”, “disengagement under fire”—on the army’s fear of
violent evacuation, “during the evacuation: it is allowed to
shoot also Palestinians demonstrators”, “the disengagement will
cause a rift inside the army”—on the fear of the army from the
magnitude of the protest against the evacuation, “we will im-
plement the disengagement with determination and sensitivity”
—on the first speech of the new Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz,
calling not to get the army involved in the political debate,
clarifying: I will not accept refusal, “we first handle the shoot-
ers and then we will evacuate the settlers”—on the Chief of
Staff announcement not to carry out evacuation under fire, “the
disengagement will be implemented”—on the Chief of Staff
announcement warning the settlers’ leaders that they will bear
responsibility for bloodshed”.
Two months before the disengagement articles about the op-
eration itself were published. The headlines were informative
and started the countdown: “60 more days to disengagement”,
“only two months left”, “from Sunday: the settlements in nor-
thern Samaria are to be dismantled”, “settlers from Gush Katif
signed the evacuation agreement”, “today is the meeting be-
tween Sharon and Abu Mazen”, and “about 3000 foreign cor-
respondents are expected to arrive”. The headlines presented
the disengagement process as a national operation and quoted
the Prime Minister words against the settlers: “rampage”—on
road blocking by the right wing groups, “Sharon: law breakers
—a threat to the state”—on the refusal in the army as a jeop-
ardy to democracy, and “Sharon: this is a battle for the coun-
try”—following mass demonstrations of disengagement’s op-
ponents. The paper reflected also the public opinion against the
demonstrations: “drivers against blockers”, and reported the
survey results showing public support in the process: “Yediot
Achronot poll: 53% for the disengagement, 38% against”.
On July, one month before the evacuation, the reports dealt
with the different aspects of the conflict between the govern-
ment and the evacuees: articles about the army preparations for
summoning the withdrawal opponents to Gush Katif to protest
the pullout, articles about the preparation by some residents for
the evacuation, along with reports about the emotional con-
frontation of other settlers with the evacuation, such as the di-
lemmas of the bereaved families, and reports about negotiation
on the compensation. Further reports described the potential
resistance to the evacuation: “blockade alert”—on the thou-
sands of people planning to arrive to Gaza Strip and stay there
until the evacuation, “shuddering demonstration”—on wearing
orange patches as a protest against the evacuation, “the settlers
cut the fence and confronted the police force”—on confronta-
tions between the disengagement opponents and the military
forces, “concern: thousands will try to break into the strip to-
day”—a dramatic report on a big march of settlers which might
cause confrontation with the security forces, and “toward a
resolution”, on the potential confrontation between those op-
posed disengagement and the military.
When the opponents to disengagement decided not to con-
front the army, cynical articles presented the evacuees’ demon-
stration as a festival: “the disengagement festival”, “returning
home”, “guarding and weeping”, “one day after the protest rally:
100 applications for compensation”, and “a month before the
pullout: the containers have already arrived to Gush Katif”.
However, despite the protest failure, the paper continued to
write about the army’s preparation for the evacuation: “55,000
soldiers will take part in the evacuation”, “the biggest operation
of all”, and “reserve mobilization for the disengagement has
begun”. Other reports described the drawer plans of the security
forces in case of violent opposition: “the secret exercise of the
settlers”—on the fear of the security forces from violent protest
demonstrations”, and “the refusniks prison”—on the prepara-
tions for soldiers refusing to carry out the evacuation.
During August—the month of the actual evacuation—the co-
verage was factual, and referred to the process as a done deal.
The reports contemplated on the evacuation outcome and the
political and social implications of the disengagement operation.
The political implications dealt with a secret negotiation be-
tween Sharon and right wing rabbis, the compromise achieved
between the leaders of the evacuees and the army about a pro-
test demonstration of two and one half hours outside Gush
Katif borders, the preparation of the Palestinians following the
pullout, the pursuit of infiltrators, the final cabinet approval of
the evacuation, the resignation of the Finance Minister in pro-
test of the disengagement, the decision to detain several ex-
treme opponents before the pullout, and the army plans of the
implementation process to dismantling the settlements.
The coverage had magnified as the scheduled date for the
operation drew nearer and had peaked when large crowds of
infiltrators tried to enter Gush Katif to resist the evacuation.
The headlines were unequivocal on what is going to happen: “it
feels like war”, “battle on the roof”, “a war is awaiting us in
northern Samaria”, “24 hours to evacuation of Sa-Nur and Ho-
mesh: confrontation has begun—on the verge of explosion”,
“Minister of Defense and head of General Security Services
(GSS) warn: evacuation of north Samaria will be more violent
than in Kfar Darom; The danger—use of live ammunition”,
“today: fear of serious violence during evacuation of Sa-Nur
and Homesh; IDF chief of Staff: we will immediately neutralize
any shooter”, and “we are ready for the worst”.
A week before the evacuation the headlines were unequivo-
cal and succinctly outlining the process: “leave your homes by
midnight on Sunday”—on official letters sent by the army to
the residents, six days before the evacuation, demanding vol-
untary evacuation, “the big desertion”—on residents who de-
cided to leave voluntarily and held farewell ceremonies from
the settlements, “preparing for a siege”—on residents who de-
cided not to leave, “the protest” and “the last power demonstra-
tion”—on 70,000 people gathering at the Kotel (Western Wall)
square to protest against the evacuation, “Sharon: I will not ask
for forgiveness from the settlers”—a set alone front-page head-
line with no article printed four days before the evacuation,
“closing down the southern roads”, “goodbye Gush Katif”,
“disengagement 2005—the biggest operation in the history of
the state is on the way”, “tonight it begins”, and “the gate is
closing—the evacuation is starting”.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 13
The coverage during and after the six days of the disengage-
ment operation presented the state of Israel as demonstrating
uncompromising might. It was an overwhelming historical and
national victory, featured in the paper as pivotal to the coun-
try’s future. The disengagement plan was fully accomplished,
with almost no casualties and in less time than planned by the
army or projected by the media. The paper praised the army for
well organized preparation and perfect implementation achie-
ved fast and efficiently, with sensitivity to the settlers, executed
smoothly and with hardly any casualties. The soldiers were
portrayed as heroes, confronted with heart breaking sights yet
acting with determination and sensitivity throughout the opera-
tion in the searing heat of August. The paper referred also to the
global impact of the evacuation, which was extensively covered
around the world, featuring the soldiers’ patience and profes-
sional conduct throughout the operation while being transmitted
live on TV channels in Israel and covered extensively world-
The attitude toward the evacuees was bipolar. On one hand,
fear from violent collision with the security forces during the
evacuation, on the other hand, feelings for people forced to
leave their homes. Toward the completion of the operation,
when it became clear that there would be no violence during the
evacuation, many articles were published recounting personal
stories about the pain and emotional hardship experienced by
those involved in the event along with pictures of praying and
weeping evacuees. Headlines were emotional and succinct, a
few words spread saliently on the front page: “final embrace”,
against the backdrop of a photo of a weeping settler, “the blood
will remain here forever”—on families who had lost their loved
ones in terrorist acts in Gush Katif and now are forced to leave
their homes, and “halleluiah to the synagogue”—on evacuating
a synagogue where soldiers were praying and sobbing with the
evacuees—yet accomplishing their mission.
The Role of the Press
The policy of the Israeli security system was traditionally
based on the need to prevent advertisement of information on
the army and sensitive issues. The perspective of security stems
from a situation of prolonged war between Israel and Arab
states and armed fanatic organizations, and the daily exposure
to terrorist attacks against civilians. For years a wide national
consent was created, beyond ideological and political stands,
for the need to prevent advertisement that could endanger the
national security. This stand was accepted by the public and by
the media for many years, since the army and the security sys-
tem were a principle factor in the gathering of information on
security subjects and as such controlled vital information.
The Israeli society has traditionally seen national security as
more important that the need of the public to be exposed to
sensitive information. The relationship between the media and
the government have established the notion that Israel’s secu-
rity issues stand at the heart of its very existence and the com-
mon interests of the army and social issues are considered as an
issue of national security.
The communication policy throughout the disengagement
allowing almost complete freedom of coverage along with ex-
tensive and active facilitation by the IDF spokesperson unit for
the domestic and foreign media is rather exceptional for closed
organizations such as the IDF and the police, whose major part
of their daily activities is built on discreetness and closeness to
the media. The adoption of global media characteristics caused
a re-examination of the Israeli society’s approach to covering
security topics. Due to the global media contribution which
brings available information in real time through the internet,
satellite transmissions and cellular communication, changes had
occurred in the ability and legitimation of the military censure
to sweepingly and without appropriate explanation ban security
sensitive information from the Israeli public and the world
(Wallsfeld, 2005).
The local and global tendencies that brought about the chan-
ges in the media coverage on security issues resulted in the fact
that the past army’s exclusive authority to ban publicizing in-
formation on security issues was not anymore applicable to the
disengagement, and it was impossible to fully control the cor-
respondents who are familiar with the grounds and the factors
involved in the process—the evacuating forces and the evacu-
ees residents. However, the role of the media remanied suppor-
tive of the army and the government and provided little or no
coverage to other aspects of the process. Although the army
realized that there is no way to stop the correspondents and thus
decided to open the operation to media coverage almost with no
restrictions, it was the press that restricted its coverage to pro-
tect operational needs (Balint, 2005).
Comparison between the army preparations for violent eva-
cuation with many casualties and the final result of violent-free
evacuation, points to the huge gap between the basic assump-
tions of the operation and the actual outcome. Also, the gap be-
tween the heavy army forces and the number of soldiers needed
for the implementation of the disengagement, and the fact that
the evacuation itself was carried out by non-combatant and
female soldiers as opposed to the numerous publications about
the need for large combatant forces to carry out the implement-
tation—point to the major role of the media in the operation
success (Kaneti, 2005). Throughout the months preceding the
disengagement implementation, the army media policy was to
prepare the public opinion in Israel and abroad and to properly
confront the residents slated for evacuation, and indeed it was a
central factor in implementing the goals (Benzimen, 2005).
Analyzing the reports publicized in the main daily newspaper
of Israel—Yediot Achronot—from August 1, 2005 through Au-
gust 24, 2005, with the completion of the evacuation of Israeli
citizens, reveal that the newspaper presented a one-sided pic-
ture magnifying the image of the Israeli settlers as a violent and
dangerous group, and emphasized their plan to forcibly resist
the evacuation and threaten the army’s ability to enact on the
government decision. The newspaper covered the process ex-
tensively while consistently avoiding criticizing the disengage-
ment plan. It chose to convey the disengagement as an internal
Israeli story, a human tragedy that touches the Israeli society
alone—a traumatic event that emphasizes the suffering of all
those involved, namely, the settlers, the evacuating soldiers and
policemen, as well as the right–wing camp whose ideology of
greater Israel is being shattered.
The paper’s reporters ignored the political and security im-
plications of the process. The newspaper ignored the implica-
tions of the operation on the Israeli-Arab conflict and referred
to the entire process as it was planned to be—a unilateral dis-
engagement, unrelated to the Palestinian side. The paper’s cov-
erage also ignored the security arrangements of the Palestinian
Authority and the question of what would happen in the Au-
thority after the withdrawal. The paper supported the disen-
gagement decision entirely and did not try to analyze its prob-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 15
lematic aspects or examine whether the decision to disengage
was right. The media adopted the government’s position that
there was no partner on the other side, thus the disengagement
is an internal Israeli affair to be completed in any case, also
without the Palestinians’ help. Accordingly, substantial issues
of political and security implications were not discussed in the
press coverage.
Throughout this period the newspaper expressed full support
and sympathy to the Prime Minister. Ariel Sharon was por-
trayed as tenacious, confident in himself and in the decision
that he had made regarding the disengagement, acting for the
future of the state of Israel, unaffected by the opposition to the
process, not hesitant with respect to the disengagement cones-
quences and appreciative of the good of the country in the long
run—especially from the security and demographic aspect. He
was portrayed as a strong political leader who knows how to
overcome his opponents, recognizes the weak points of each
one of them, takes into account all the options of upsetting his
moves and constantly thinking about alternatives.
The press coverage portrayed Sharon as a leader who sticks
to the goal, yet sensitive and gentle; a person who makes sure
that the evacuation will be carried out professionally and with
full consideration to the evacuees. Sharon had shown great pa-
tience with the evacuees and stressed the importance of keeping
their routine intact until evacuation day. He allowed them to
have decent farewell ceremonies from their homes and their
settlements. Yet, at the same time he did not deviate from the
decision he had made which was adopted by the government.
Sharon was portrayed as a determined and resolute leader yet,
sensitive, a person who could shed a tear and sympathize with
the hardship imposed on the settlers—a person who knows how
to separate national responsibility from personal feelings. The
newspaper also emphasized his personal story; the man who
was responsible for building the settlement is now responsible
for their dismantling. To support its position the paper public-
cized a survey results that showed an impressive public support
in Sharon: 61% believed that he is the right person to lead Israel
and 50% thought that no other leader is capable to implement-
ing the disengagement.
Also when dealing with the settlers, Sharon was portrayed in
a positive light. Following his agreement with the settlers on an
organized transfer to Nitzanim area, he was portrayed as a prac-
tical, considerate and sensitive man. He was depicted as polite,
listens to his opponents and talks with them eye to eye with
consideration to their predicaments. The media sympathized
with Sharon’s claims that the disengagement is inevitable under
the circumstances, and his attentiveness to the evacuees points
to his qualities as a leader. The media stressed Sharon’s attitude
toward the operation while ordering the army to proceed—
“bring in the bulldozers, start leveling the grounds, start work-
For all Sharon’s determination, the paper still supported his
decision to postpone the evacuation. Sharon consented to the
demand to delay the operation by three weeks for religious
reasons (the period of Bein HaMetzarim, during which it is for-
bidden to relocate according to the Halacha), and was portrayed
by the paper in a positive light, as a man open to suggestions
from his cabinet members and not rushing to make a decision
that might hurt the unity of the people. The newspaper came
with another reason for the disengagement’s delay, namely the
fact that the area designated to absorb the evacuees had not yet
been ready.
It is evident from this study that the press coverage created
an organized script in three stages: first, the settlers were por-
trayed as fanatic and violent, then, articles were published
about the determined position of the government, and finally,
the actions to be carried out by the army against the violent
forces were displayed. The coverage portrayed the settlers as
the negative element in the process, while the army was the po-
sitive element. After creating such image, the newspaper re-
layed the steps that the good element would take in order to
prevent the bad element from impeding the implementation of
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