Israel Cutting Power to Parts of West Bank, for Second Time This Week

The company said Monday following the first blackout that it was owed large sums of money by Northern Electric, the Palestinian firm which purchases and distributes the electricity.

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Haaretz
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The Israel Electirc Corporation provides the Palestinians about 7% of its total production via high-voltage electricity lines.
The Israel Electirc Corporation provides the Palestinians about 7% of its total production via high-voltage electricity lines. Credit: Reuters
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Haaretz

The Israel Electric Corporation cut power flow to the West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin for about 30 minutes on Wednesday morning, for the second time in two days, in response to the Palestinian Authority's unpaid bills.

The Palestinians were notified in the early afternoon that the electrical flow would be restricted at 2 P.M. Israel's defense ministry also said it had been surprised to learn of the move and said it opposed the decision.

The company said it was forced to cut electricity from time to time to minimize future debt.

The company said Monday following the first blackout that it was owed large sums of money by Northern Electric, a Palestinian firm which buys electricity from Israel and distributes it to towns and villages in the northern West Bank. That power outage lasted approximately 45 minutes.

The Israeli electrical company said in a statement the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian companies owed it 1.9 billion shekels ($487 million) and that it had sent many notices warning of the pending step.

"The Israel Electric Corp. is committed to operate under the law to reduce the debt," the electric company said in a statement. "The Electric Corp. is compelled to act so as not to increase the debt beyond 2 billion shekels."

Electric company officials said the move was meant to pressure the Palestinian Authority to either collect the debt or at least reduce it. They said the company has also petitioned the High Court of Justice to require the state to reach an agreement to resolve the debt. The hearing is scheduled for April.

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said Monday night that the Israel Electric Corporation's decision to cut off power was an "independent" decision of the company and was not ordered by the political echelon.

The PMO, the Defense Minister's bureau and the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories [COGAT] have in the past issued their vehement opposition to such an action.

National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen told officials from the electric company over the last few weeks that the implications of such an action would be dangerous.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and COGAT Yoav Mordechai also warned against such a move, citing the humanitarian and diplomatic implications it would cause.

Cohen held an emergency meeting Tuesday with the defense ministry, the finance ministry, the energy ministry and the electric corporation.

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