Palestinians completely dependent on Israel for electricity, gasoline, fuel and water
Ben-Eliezer wants to cut them off. PM insists on maintaining supplies, for now
Hearing the cries of "cut off their water and electricity," a question arises. Just how dependent on Israel are the Palestinians in Gaza? Answer: Almost entirely.
Yesterday Dor-Alon (TASE: DRAL) cut off supplies of fuel to Gaza, but electricity and water are still being supplied. "All assistance and aid for the Gaza Strip should be stopped," National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio. "I am stopping everything until I understand what is happening over there. We simply have to increase the isolation of Gaza from Judea and Samaria; close them off completely. The only opening that should remain open is toward Rafah."
Ben-Eliezer scheduled a meeting at his office for Wednesday to discuss the supply of water, fuel and electricity to the PA. But meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled that Israel will continue to supply water, electricity and medical services, for now, and will find a way to provide humanitarian aid including food through international organizations.
Regarding electricity, the Palestinians are also almost completely dependent. The power stations that run on diesel fuel supplied daily by Israel produce 100 megawatts, though in theory they could supply 144 megawatts if it weren't for technical problems. Last summer the Israel Air Force bombed the transformer station connected to these plants, though it has been partially restored with Egyptian help.
This accounts for about a third of Gaza's electricity use. The rest comes from 11 high-tension lines provided by the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).
Last year the IEC supplied 3.1 billion kilowatt-hours to the Palestinians, about a quarter of that to Gaza, worth NIS 1.2 billion.
Israel also supplies the Palestinians with water. On top of local wells, Mekorot provides 40 million cubic meters of water to the West Bank, and another 5 million to Gaza every year.
The price of the water was fixed in a 1996 agreement with the Palestinians at NIS 2 per cubic meter, for a total of NIS 90 million a year.
Dor Alon halted the supply of gasoline and natural gas to the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip yesterday after the company was unable to establish contact with its Palestinian partners there.
Supply had continued as usual over the violent weekend despite the internecine warfare in Gaza, during which Hamas beat the Fatah factions for control of the strip. Dor Alon then halted the supply yesterday morning.
Sources in Olmert's entourage for his visit to the U.S. said that the decision to cut off fuel supplies was made by the company, not the cabinet.
The Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry gave no orders to cut off the fuel supply, and as far as the official offices coordinating fuel transfers at the Erez Crossing are concerned, fuel transfers may continue if the company wishes.
But supplies of diesel fuel to Gaza power plants continued normally, as payment for this is vouched by European guarantees.
A Dor Alon spokesperson said the Palestinian contact people responsible for transferring the fuel from Israel to the Palestinian Authority could not be located.
Gasoline transfers to the PA are done in coordination with the Israeli army and Defense Ministry. Gaza is completely dependent on Israeli fuel, and since there is almost no storage capability in the strip, the Palestinians need almost daily deliveries. The Palestinians have at most three to five days of fuel on hand without fresh supplies from Israel.
Any decision on this matter has been put off until the Wednesday meeting called by Ben-Eliezer.
Dor Alon's annual sales of fuel products to the Palestinians in Gaza are estimated at NIS 750 million, and the daily loss for the company is estimated at between NIS 1.5 million and NIS 2 million, not including the fuel still supplied to the power stations. But the fuel that is still flowing is considered to represent only a small fraction of the firm's profits.
Cooking gas as well as gasoline will soon run short in the Palestinian Authority unless supply is resumed. The Palestinians in Gaza buy the fuel through the PA, about 50 million to 55 million liters of gasoline and diesel fuel a month, as well as 130,000 tons of cooking gas.
The transfer takes place through underground pipelines in the Nahal Oz area, over hundreds of meters from the Israeli to the Palestinian side. Occasionally, fuel is transferred at a crossing point, often Karni, directly between Israeli and Palestinian fuel trucks.
Dor Alon had been supplying the Palestinian Authority with fuel products exclusively since 1994. This changed at the start of 2007; since then, Dor Alon has continued supplying Gaza, while Zadik Bino's company Paz supplies the West Bank.
The Gaza market makes up about 35 percent of Palestinian fuel usage, and the West Bank 65 percent.
In 2006 Dor Alon sold the Palestinian Authority NIS 2.15 billion worth of fuel.
Yuval Azoulay and Aluf Benn contributed to this report.