Israel is threatening to cut off electricity to the West Bank beginning this week if the Palestinian Authority does not pay off its debt.
This means that residents of the West Bank near Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem will experience rolling blackouts of several hours at a time, beginning Wednesday. Palestinians in the West Bank rely on Israel for more than 95% of their electricity supply.
Israel maintains that the PA owes 500 million shekels ($157 million) to the Israeli Electricity Company in accumulated debts, according to this report but slightly less – $120 million – according to The Times of Israel which quotes a Kan report.
The PA obtains electricity from Israel, directly through the national electrical company, or indirectly through the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO), which buys electricity from Israel and provides it to the Palestinian Authority. This is not the first time this has happened. In 2019, electricity was cut off over a previous unpaid debt.
In a statement, JDECO chief Hisham al-Omari said, “Israel deliberately creates crises, especially as we enter the winter season, in order to serve its goals.”
Knowing it will be unable to pay the debt immediately, the PA has asked Israeli authorities to not cut off electricity to areas which include hospitals and health facilities.
The Palestinian Authority is experiencing a difficult financial crisis, Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said. He is currently touring European Union countries in order to raise money as well as garner support for six Palestinian NGOs that were recently labeled by Israel as terrorist organizations.