The construction of urgency discourse around mega-projects: the Israeli case

Abstract

Various studies have pointed to urgency in decision-making as a major catalyst for policy change. Urgency evokes a crisis frame in which emotions and cognitive and institutional biases are more likely to be mobilised in support of the policy preferences of powerful actors. As a result, decision-makers tend to be driven by emotions and opportunity, often with detrimental results for the quality of the planning process. Although urgency has such a profound influence on the quality of decision-making, little is known about how, when and by whom urgency is constructed in the planning process of public infrastructure. By means of a discourse analysis, this study traces the timing, motives and ways actors discursively construct a sense of urgency in decision-making on the building of terminals for the reception and treatment of the natural gas that was recently found off the coast of Israel. The results of this study indicate that government regulators, but also private sector actors, deliberately constructed an urgency discourse at critical moments during the planning process. By evoking terms that resonated with the target audience, regulators employed urgency as an instrument to legitimise unorthodox planning practices whilst precluding the consideration of alternative planning solutions. Thus, urgency framing is a means of controlling both the discourse and the agenda—and is therefore an exercise in power maintenance—by entrenched interest groups.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Gil Tal and Moshe Maor who shared with us their invaluable insights and expertise that greatly assisted our research, and three anonymous referees for their useful suggestions and constructive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We would like to express our gratitude to The Levi Eshkol Institute at The Hebrew University for partially funding this research.

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Correspondence to Josef van Wijk or Itay Fischhendler.

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van Wijk, J., Fischhendler, I. The construction of urgency discourse around mega-projects: the Israeli case. Policy Sci 50, 469–494 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-016-9262-0

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Keywords

  • Mega-projects
  • Infrastructure
  • Planning
  • Urgency
  • Crisis
  • Discourse
  • Framing