Israel has informed the Palestinian Authority that in a week it would start initiating power outages to various areas, Kan 11 News reported Wednesday night. The planned blackouts will continue until the PA settles its debt to the Israeli Electric Company and the Arab eastern Jerusalem electric company – roughly half a billion shekels altogether ($156 million). Senior PA officials have gone abroad to raise the needed funds to reduce the debt.
The Palestinian Authority receives electricity from Israel, both directly through the IEC, and indirectly through the East Jerusalem Electric Company, which buys it from Israel and supplies it to the PA. Over the years, the PA has accumulated a debt of half a billion shekels that has yet to be paid, and in the past two years it hasn’t paid anything for Israeli electricity.
Two weeks ago, a warning letter was sent to the Palestinian Authority stating that if it does not settle the debt, starting next Wednesday, the IEC will begin scheduled blackouts of four hours at a time in the Ramallah area, Bethlehem, and villages in the Jerusalem area. The PA sent the IEC a list of areas with hospitals and other vital facilities where it asked not to cut off the service.
Two months ago, riots broke out in Tulkarm following power outages, so the blackouts have the potential to produce unrest.
About four years ago, the PA’s debt reached two billion shekels ($626 million). Israel then forgave a quarter of the amount, the PA paid a part of the debt, and the rest was spread in payments over two years – of which the PA has not paid a penny.
The PA must now reach a new debt settlement deal, but it claims that it is in a difficult financial situation, and soon will not be able to pay salaries to its employees. In recent days, large groups of senior PA officials have gone abroad in an attempt to raise money, among them Major General Majed Faraj, head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service (GIS), who’s hitting the rich Gulf States, and Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, who focuses on the EU countries.