Israel Electric Company chairman Yiftach Ron-Tal said Monday that the Palestinian Authority owes the IEC NIS 1.2 billion ($375 million).
The PA is the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars of international assistance, but somehow has been unable to come up with the money to pay its electricity bill. Once in awhile, the PA pays down some of its debts, but the IEC has been trying for years to get the Authority to pay the full amount – to no avail.
“We are doing our best to collect the debt,” Ron-Tal said. “I would sorely love to shut off their electricity, as I would for any customer who refuses to pay his bills.”
Unfortunately, however, the company cannot treat the PA like a regular customer.
“The government has various interests, and as we are a government company we must abide by its dictates,” he said. With that, “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to collect the money,” Ron-Tal added.
The IEC is itself in debt and the company has faced several financial crises – but that has not impeded its ability to ensure Israel's electricity supply. “During the recent snowstorm we had our people out right away repairing the infrastructure,” despite the difficulties, he said.
Ron-Tal, a former IDF general, said that Israel could not surrender the Jordan Valley or the Samarian Hills, running along Road 60 in the Binyamin region. “From a security point of view we must hold onto the Jordan Valley, effectively controlling it. There is no other way to ensure the strategic depth the country needs.”
On the other hand, the former general echoed evaluations by security experts that it would be impossible to hold onto the Jordan Valley itself without Jewish settlement in the rest of Samaria (Shomron), in particular the Binyamin region in southern Samaria. “It would be like a limb that is no longer attached to the body,” he said. “It would die.”