The Israel Electric Corporation has given the Palestinian Authority control over three West Bank power substations – in Tarqumiyah, near Hebron, Qalandiyah, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and Nablus. They join a fourth in Jenin, which was transferred to Palestinian control in 2017 following lengthy negotiations.
Despite the diplomatic standstill with Israel, the Palestinian Authority welcomed the deal, announced on Monday, which Israel says will also help improve the power supply to West Bank settlements.
Until now, most Palestinian energy needs in the West Bank were supplied by the Jerusalem District Electricity Company, a semi-private company owned in part by the municipality of Jerusalem and several Palestinian cities. It purchases the power from Israel and then supplies it via high voltage lines to Palestinian consumers.
In recent years, Palestinians have reported frequent power outages, partly due to an overstretched system but also because of a deliberate drop in energy sharing by Israel, which says the Palestinians owe the government-owned electricity company hundreds of millions of shekels.
The Israel Electric Corporation said the West Bank stations would now be able to supply power in an orderly fashion, but that it does not mean the debt has been forgiven.
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The Palestinian government supports the deal, which it says could be a step towards building an integrated power provider in the Palestinian territories. “We welcome the cooperation between the sides and the arrangement for supplying electricity throughout the West Bank,” Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said. “We seek to establish a single Palestinian power company to be responsible for electricity infrastructure so as to avoid illegal hookups and a division of responsibility among dozens of suppliers,” he added.
Israel has sought to stress the deal means improvements for settlers, and an attempt to bring infrastructure in the West Bank in line with that found in Israeli territory. “The establishment and operation of the three substations in Judea and Samaria will dramatically improve the supply of electricity to both Jewish and Arab communities,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, of Likud, said, using the Israeli name for the West Bank.
“This is a significant step on the way to equalizing the level of infrastructure in Judea and Samaria to that of the rest of Israel,” Steinitz said.
The chairman of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company said the step would add to a general increase of its capacity power supply, which is also receiving a boost from its cooperation with Jordan. Yiftah Ron-Tal, chairman of the Israel Electric Corporation, said the effort “will ease pressure on the electric grid and dramatically improve the reliability of power supply to Israelis living in Judea and Samaria as well as to the Palestinians.”