The Israeli government informed the Palestinian Authority that it will be cutting back its supply of electricity due to the non-payment of a $120 million debt to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) and the Jerusalem District Electricity Company.
The IEC has the right to disconnect power … a right that has been approved by the Supreme Court,” said Oren Helman, senior vice president for customer service and regulation at the IEC. “The restrictions will be carried out proportionately, in a meticulous manner with proper advance notice,” he added.
Neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas in Gaza produces oil or natural gas and they are is predominantly dependent on the IEC for electricity. The Palestinian Electricity Transmission Company (PETL), formed in 2013, is currently the sole buyer of electricity in the areas under PA control.
Beginning on Wednesday, blackouts will begin in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and areas near Jerusalem for four hours a day. The PA has requested that certain areas including those with hospitals or other essential services be excluded from the blackouts.
JDECO chief Hisham al-Omari accused Israeli authorities of deliberately timing the announcement for political purposes.
“Israel deliberately creates crises, especially as we enter the winter season, in order to serve its goals,” al-Omari said in a statement.
Last year, the IEC imposed power cuts of several hours a day due to a $500 million debt owed by the main Palestinian power distributor. The cuts continued for over three months until the PA paid slightly over half their debt. In January 2015, the IEC cut power to Palestinian cities for a number of hours every day over a similar debt, only to permanently renew the electricity supply a few weeks later. By 2016, the PA had accumulated a debt of $530 million to the Israel Electric Corporation. An agreement was reached in which Israel conceded a quarter of the amount. The PA agreed to pay Israel $132 million. The balance of $397 million was supposed to be paid in 48 installments