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PA: Israel Not Cutting Electricity, Giving More

PA official says talk of massive electricity debt not a threat, claims PA offered country status and reduced rates by Electric Corporation.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 2/26/2014, 12:18 PM

Electric company
Electric company
Flash 90

A senior member of the Palestinian Authority (PA) electricity committee on Wednesday morning denied talk of Israel cutting off power to the PA, given the PA's 1.4 billion shekels ($400 million) in unpaid bills to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).

"The electric company hasn't threatened to cut off the PA from electric supply," said the senior official to Arabic news source Ma'an.

According to the official, the IEC offered the PA was to sign a new agreement by which it would be given the status of a country, with an accompanying reduced rate.

IEC Director Yiftah Ron-Tal on Tuesday spoke in the Knesset’s Finance Committee, where he said that if IEC were privately owned, it would have cut off the PA long ago.

"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,” Ron-Tal 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.

In response to Ron-Tal's appeals, Finance Committee head 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 that [the court] obligates the state to address the problem."

Making the idea that the PA will come clean on its debts less likely is the fact that it is in the midst of a financial crisis; as of last July the entity owed $4.2 billion in internal and external debts.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas signed a $1 billion energy deal in Russia during January. Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS reported that Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom intends to produce 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas off the Gaza coast, in addition to talk of an oil development project near Ramallah.