The unintended consequence of the hostile cancellation of Egypt’s natural gas contract with Israel may result in increased blackouts in Gaza. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan says Israel should consider cutting its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip this summer in face of predicted power shortages.
Speaking at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Erdan said that before he is asked to authorize the use of more pollutants, to meet Israel’s severe fuel shortage and anticipated blackouts this summer, the Gaza Strip—which gets its electricity from the Israel Electric Company—should be taken off the grid.
“Take care of your own needs first,” Erdan told the ministers. “It’s unreasonable that if there’s an electricity shortage, we’ll cut off the supply to Israelis – but not to Gaza, which we left seven years ago and have no responsibility for.”
In a letter Erdan had sent to fellow ministers, he argued that “if there are power shortages in Israel this summer, the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip should be halted… It represents 4.5 percent of Israeli production.”
“Electricity production will be less than demand this summer,” Erdan told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday.
“We are looking at using production methods that are more polluting and alternative energy sources like solar but we may still have to have electricity outages,” Edran said.
Referring to late payments by the Palestinian Authority for the 120 megawatts which Israel supplies Gaza, Erdan added, “If we are in that situation it would be absurd for Israelis to be the first ones affected while at the same time we continue to provide electricity to Gaza, while they are not paying.”
Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman of the Islamist movement Hamas which controls Gaza, said Erdan’s “threats… exposed the true face of the occupation.”
“What is required from the Arab countries, and Egypt in particular, is the creation of an Arab, Egyptian safety net for the residents of Gaza in light of the Zionist blackmail,” he added.
Israel’s energy generation was heavily depended on natural gas supplies from Egypt, which have been closed off pending a renegotiations of the 2005 contract.
The Gaza Strip experienced its worst electricity crisis this year, with diminishing fuel supplies from Egypt forcing the shutting down of Gaza’s only power plant.
Gaza experienced power cuts of up to 18 hours a day, but the situation improved after a deal last month between Gaza’s Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority, which agreed to supply Gaza with fuel purchased from Israel.
The PA and Hamas agreed that the cost of the 500,000 liters per day of fuel for the plant would be met from revenue collected from customers by the Gaza electricity company.
Gaza’s electricity company generates 80 megawatts. It receives 120 megawatts from Israel and 80 megawatts from Egypt, which combined only meets about two-thirds of demand.
Erdan accused the Hamas government of punishing its own population by cutting off power to some civilians while keeping the lights on in areas where it enjoys political support.
Erdan said cutting the export of electricity to Gaza would be done only as a result of need and not “collective punishment” of Gaza’s civilian population.