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Israel to reportedly cut power to Palestinian areas of West Bank over debts

  • October 28, 2021

The Israel Electric Corporation has reportedly threatened to begin cutting power to Palestinian areas of the West Bank next week over some half a billion shekels ($156,720,160) in unpaid bills.

Starting next Wednesday, rolling blackouts will hit Ramallah, Bethlehem and other areas near Jerusalem for four hours every day until the debts are paid or a deal is reached, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

Palestinians rely on Israel for nearly all of their electricity but often fall behind on payments to Israel, periodically sparking crises as the IEC attempts to pressure the Palestinian Authority into making good on its debts. Israel has in the past forced the IEC to keep providing electricity out of concern for the Palestinian population.

Two weeks agoת the PA was notified for the second time by Israeli authorities of the pending blackouts if the mounting debt was not addressed. Recognizing that it won’t be able to come up with the funds in the immediate term, Ramallah has presented Israel with a list of areas it is asking to be excluded from the blackout zones, Kan said. These include towns with hospitals or other essential facilities.

In addition, senior PA officials have embarked on trips abroad in order to fundraise. Intelligence chief Majed Faraj was in the United Arab Emirates this week and PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh was set to reach out to European allies for assistance. Recent years have seen the PA plunge into an economic crisis that was further intensified by the pandemic. As the conflict with Israel continues to drag on with no resolution in sight and Ramallah continues to push off its first election in over 15 years, the international community’s willingness to foot the bill has also wained.

The IEC took similar measures two years ago, cutting power in parts of the West Bank over the NIS 1.7 billion ($500 million) debt owed by the main Palestinian power distributor for the West Bank. The cuts lasted roughly three months until the PA managed to pay half of the debt incurred in January 2020.

In 2016, Israel and the PA reached a deal to settle a debt that had accumulated to 2 NIS billion ($530 million), with Ramallah agreeing to pay Jerusalem NIS 570 million ($132 million). The remaining balance of NIS 1.5 billion ($397 million) was to be paid in 48 installments.

Under an economic agreement signed with the PA in 1994, Israel collects around NIS 600-700 million ($159-$185 million) each month in customs duties, which are levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.

It transfers the money after deducting approximately NIS 100 million ($26 million) for expenses such as Palestinian hospitalizations in Israel, sewage treatment and covering part of the electricity debt, which has remained largely stable in recent months.

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.

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