Israel's Electric Company Cuts West Bank Power Over Palestinian Authority Debt

PA accuses company of collective punishment ■ Company says PA owes 1.7 billion shekels, while PA official says debt is 700 million and that half has been paid

Electricians install new power transmission lines at a construction site in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 3, 2012.
REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Some Palestinian communities in the West Bank will have their power cut beginning on Sunday because of Palestinian Authority debts that are worth 1.7 billion shekels ($484 million), the Israel Electric Corporation said.

The chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority, Zafer Melhem, said the Palestinian electric company had paid 374 million shekels and that the debt was only 700 million shekels. Residents said that the electricity was indeed cut between noon and 2 P.M. in some spots in the Jericho and Jordan Valley areas, and in villages around Ramallah.

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The IEC statement said that it had “for a long time warned both the debtor and the relevant officials in government ministries of the immediate need to pay the debts, but to date no solution has been found.”

PA officials said the decision constituted collective punishment and would deal a serious blow to the Palestinian economy, as well as to its health and education systems. They added that the Palestinian government was asking officials in the international community to protest the decision.

The East Jerusalem Electric Company, which supplies power to Bethlehem, said that the debt had accumulated because many residents were not paying their electric bills. Another reason, it said, was the illegal electricity connections in the homes of residents in the areas it serves and the refugee camps.

Melhem said the energy authority and the electric company are working with residents to help them pay their debts, and that they were taking measures against those who steal power or make illegal connections.

In 2016, the IEC began over the course of two weeks to cut power in a different area every day in the West Bank over the debts.

Two years before that, then-Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, warned against the IEC's plan to start instituting power cuts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem . In a letter sent to National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, senior IEC executives, the Foreign Ministry and the defense minister, Mordechai said the question of supplying electricity to the Palestinians was not just a commercial issue for the IEC, but a strategic and diplomatic one for Israel, and that limiting power would be seen as an Israeli punishment against the civilian population.