Photo Credit: David Azagury / US Embassy Tel Aviv
US Special Representative for International Negotiations meeting with residents of Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the Gaza Belt region of southern Israel. August 30 2017

Israelis in southern Israel are asking the United States to help their neighbors in Gaza resolve the electricity and sewage crisis they face as a result of their dysfunctional leadership.

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U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt met last week with a group of mayors from Gaza Belt communities in southern Israel during his visit to the region.

Alon Schuster, head of the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, described for local residents Friday in a letter the meeting that he and the mayors had with Greenblatt, asking him to help improve Gaza infrastructure, and to help the residents there — their neighbors.

Since 2007, the Hamas terrorist organization has ruled the enclave with an iron fist, often stealing donations of money and construction materials intended for repairing Gaza’s failing infrastructure.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose government in Ramallah has paid for much of the electricity supplied to Gaza from Israel, earlier this year drastically reduced those payments and demanded Israel drop the supply.

Under pressure, Israel reduced its power supply to Gaza – which already was down to only four hours of electricity a day – dropping it by more than a third.

As a result, Gaza’s sewage processing plant shut down for a while, and after powering back up with electricity supplied by Egypt, it now runs only a few hours a day in the northern part of the enclave.

More than 108 million liters of untreated sewage flow into the Mediterranean Sea daily as a result of the electricity crisis, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which also said 73 percent of the beaches in Gaza are contaminated as a result as well.

Sewage is also appearing on the beaches along southern Israel, and it’s contaminating the ground water in both Gaza and southern Israel.

“There are serious health and environmental consequences that are expected to affect our area and significantly endanger our residents, and the residents of the entire region of southern Israel,” the mayors and Schuster told Greenblatt, who also met with Gazans at the Kerem Shalom crossing.

The Gaza Belt community leadership pointed out it would have cost less to pay for the electricity to supply the Gaza sewage plant, than to now have to invest in new Gaza infrastructure and address the damage caused by the untreated sewage.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.