DP10750 | Attack When the World Is Not Watching? U.S. News and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Publication Date

02/08/2015

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Abstract

To minimize political costs, policymakers may strategically time unpopular mea- sures to coincide with other important events that distract the media and the public. We test this hypothesis in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Combining daily data on attacks by both sides with data on the content of news on top U.S. TV networks and on the occurrence of newsworthy events, we show that Israeli attacks are more likely to be carried out one day before U.S. news is expected to be dominated by other important events. Strategic timing of Israeli attacks is driven only by newsworthy events that are predictable and applies only to attacks executed with heavy weapons, due to their higher risk of civilian ca- sualties, and to attacks that are less costly to reschedule, in contrast to targeted killings that are prohibitively costly to delay. Based on comprehensive content analysis of conflict-related news, we document that Israel?s strategy is aimed at minimizing news coverage of its attacks on the following day because next-day news is especially charged with negative emotional content. We find no evidence of strategic timing for Palestinian attacks.