by Andrew Friedman
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz ordered the Israel Electric Corporation to restore electricity to the Gaza Strip beginning immediately, but pro-Palestinian Authority groups said the move would not relieve Israel of the “legal and moral” requirement to meet the power needs of Gaza residents.
The move to restore some 50 megawatts of electricity to Gaza per day came in response to a request by the Palestinian Authority on Sunday. It represents an about-face for the Ramallah-based government.
The current crisis began last June after Ramallah said it would stop paying its share of Gaza’s electricity bill, which amounted to about NIS 40 million a month. That move, authorized by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), was intended to pressure the Hamas leadership to loosen its control of the coastal strip.
Now, the decision to reverse course is related to ongoing reconciliation talks between the two factions, as well as in response to demonstrations in Gaza in recent days over the lack of power.
Spokespeople for Steinitz did not respond to a request for details about the decision or whether the electricity would be restored in full.
Prior to last June, Israel provided Gaza with approximately 120 megawatts of electricity per day, or about one-third of the 400-500 megawatts that would be required to power Gaza around the clock. In practical terms, the limited power supply means that most Gazans will have four hours of electricity a day, followed by 12 hours without.
Despite the current decision to restore power, pro-Palestinian Authority groups said the move fell short of Israel’s responsibilities towards the enclave and would not relieve Israel of its “moral and legal responsibility” to ensure that Gaza’s electricity needs are met.
“Israel is complicit in the deliberate downgrading of living conditions in the Strip,” said Gisha, an Israeli not-for-profit whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinian Authority Arabs.
“Even if the flawed decision to supply less than maximum capacity is reversed, Israel must work to increase supply in cooperation with all responsible parties to resolve Gaza’s continued electricity crisis without delay,” the group added on its website.