From a fiasco to the Supertanker grand finale: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahus crisis communication during the Carmel disaster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On 2 December 2010, a forest fire broke out in the Carmel Mountains of northern Israel and burned for four days, becoming the biggest fire in Israels history. Forty-four people were killed, 17,000 were evacuated from their homes, and 25 million square meters of land with millions of trees burned down, in what became known as the Carmel disaster. This article examines Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus communication of the Carmel disaster, using content, rhetorical risk communication, performance analysis, and a national public opinion survey. We claim it exposes the dilemma of what we label cover-up risk communication. The analysis will examine the geo and social political context in which the Carmel disaster occurred, the rhetorical and performance strategies the prime minister chose to use to communicate the risk in his television appearances during the crisis, and the mass medias response to them. The publics response to the prime ministers risk communication is presented through the national public opinion survey we conducted. This case study indicates that even if a leader makes effective use of central tenets of risk communication (inclusion, clarity, and addressing the publics values and norms), when risk communication serves to cover-up failure rather than being part of an overall policy of changing priorities for the benefit of the population, then it becomes what we labeled cover-up risk communication. In addition, when the press does not fill its role as the publics watchdog, it might reinforce cover-up communication by the leadership and compromise the chance to correct defects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-989
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2012


  • Carmel fire disaster
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • cover-up risk communication
  • master narrative
  • strategy of ambiguity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Social Sciences
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Strategy and Management


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