Supreme Court Orders Israel to Explain Power Cuts to the Palestinians

A temporary injunction gives the government and the Israel Electric Corporation until May 22 to explain the daily supply disruptions to a third of the West Bank, initiated earlier this month.

Power cut in Bethlehem in April 2016.
Mahmoud Aliyan

The Supreme Court has issued a temporary injunction demanding that Israel explain its limited electricity supply to the East Jerusalem Electric Company which provides power to a third of the West Bank.

Two weeks ago the Palestinian company petitioned the court against deliberate power supply disruptions over debts accrued by the Palestinian Authority and the East Jerusalem company.

The court's ruling gives the state and the Israel Electric Company until May 22 to explain the complaints raised in the appeal, before it decides whether to issue an interim order to stop the power disruptions..

Attorneys Michael Ginzberg and Anat Klein, who filed the petition, called the ruling an important one with a potential to prevent inappropriate punitive steps permit the sides to try and come to an overall agreement without fear of further unilateral power cuts, which hurt the entire population.

The IEC started cutting power to Jericho and Bethlehem about three weeks ago citing a 1.7 billion shekel debt. Later power was also cut to Hebron.

The Jerusalem District Electricity Company petitioned the court on April 5 for an injunction against these disruptions.

Hisham al-Omari, CEO of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company, told Haaretz at the time that the decision to shift interruptions and electricity cuts from place to place amounts to cruelty and collective punishment toward Palestinians.

Omari said the debt in dispute between the IEC and the Palestinian Authority stems from differences over electricity rates and calculations of interest payments.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, warned two years ago allowing the IEC to cut power to  the West Bank and East Jerusalem due to debts.

Mordechai in a letter to IEC executives and cabinet ministries, said electricity supply to the Palestinians had strategic and diplomatic repercussions for Israel, and that limiting power supply to the Palestinians would be viewed as a sanction by Israel against civilians, and therefore ought to be avoided.