Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom on Saturday called on Israel to use the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) tax money it froze to pay off the PA’s enormous debt to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC).
“Following the decision to freeze half a billion shekels in Palestinian tax money, I have asked that the funds will be transferred to cover the Palestinian debt to the IEC, which continues to rise every month,” Shalom wrote on Facebook.
“It is inconceivable that the people of Israel will pay the Palestinian debt and we will ensure that the Palestinians will pay their debt to the last shekel,” he declared.
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.
In early March, the IEC issued a final warning to the PA to pay its debts within three days or get disconnected, a threat that was not carried out due to the publicly-owned nature of the company.
IEC Director Yiftah Ron-Tal has said that if it were up to him, he would cut off the PA’s electricity, but he cannot do that without a government decision on the matter.
Israel froze the transfer of PA taxes in retaliation for the PA's official request to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was submitted on Friday.
The PA has responded with intransigence, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat claiming Saturday that the move itself constitutes a "war crime."
"This decision is a new Israeli war crime, but we won't back off in the face of those pressures," he told AFP.