If the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) was a private company, it would have cut off the supply to Gaza a long time ago, the company’s director said on Tuesday, according to NRG/Maariv.
The comments by Yiftah Ron-Tal were made during a discussion in the Knesset’s Finance Committee, during which he revealed that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has accumulated a debt to the IEC of close to 1.4 billion shekels.
"If an ordinary citizen would not pay his electricity bill, we would disconnect him within a week,” said Ron-Tal.
“In this case, despite the immense financial debt that we have accumulated, we are obligated to continue to provide electricity to the PA. The State of Israel owns our company and it has to make a decision on the matter. We must collect this debt,” he added, noting that the PA has ignored repeated requests to pay its debts.
The PA acquires 95% of its electricity in Judea and Samaria and 75% of its electricity in Gaza from Israel. The Israeli supply to the PA-assigned areas has continued despite the huge debt and despite the fact that Hamas continues to carry out terror attacks aimed at Israeli forces and civilians alike.
Responding to Ron-Tal’s remarks, the head of the Finance Committee, MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home), said, "If the state does not assist the IEC in collecting the debt from the PA, the Finance Committee will consider an appeal to the High Court, so it obligates the state to address the problem."
Slomiansky added, "It is inconceivable that citizens of Israel will finance the deficits of the IEC, which are caused, among other things, by non-collection of the PA’s debt.”
Last year, the IEC put together a list of sanctions that it could impose on the PA if it does not pay its debt.
These measures include initiated blackouts in PA-assigned areas, stay of exit orders against debtors, taking the money from the taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA, and the cancellation of the license of the company that provides electricity in eastern Jerusalem.
Former Energy and Water Minister Dr. Uzi Landau at one point threatened that he would order the IEC to disconnect the power in the PA if the entity does not pay its debts.
Minister Gilad Erdan had also recommended that Israel cut power to Gaza in order to conserve electricity for its own use.
It is “absurd,” said Erdan, that Israelis should suffer blackouts over the hot summer months while a “terrorist entity next door is supplied with electricity they don't even pay for.”