The Israeli electricity company threatened on Thursday to cut off electricity to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank starting from Sunday, 23 February over unpaid debt which amounts to 1.3 billion shekels, Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported.
The company’s chairperson, Yiftach Ron-Tal, sent a letter to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informing him of the company’s decision to take firm action to collect the unpaid bills and to prevent the future accumulation of even more debt.
According to the letter, the company will start by freezing all new requests by the Palestinian Authority, as well as the Jerusalem District Electricity Company, to increase the power supply to the West Bank, while exploring the possibility of reducing the amount of electricity that the Israeli company currently supplies. The company will also submit a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding that the Israeli government deduct the debt from the Palestinian Authority tax returns or allow the company to cut off the power supply to consumers who do not fulfil their financial obligations to the company. Moreover, the company will request the Israeli government’s permission to cut off the power supply to the Jerusalem District Electricity Company starting from Sunday of next week.
The Israeli electricity company sent the letter a few days ago to Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Energy Minister Silvan Shalom and senior officials in the finance ministry, as well as to the prime minister’s office and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
The Israeli company provides power supply to East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho and believes that without an intervention, the Palestinian Authority’s debt will increase at a rate of 75 million shekels per month.
The Israeli government deducted a large proportion of this electricity debt from the Palestinian Authority’s tax returns in December 2012, but the debt has increased significantly over the past year, forcing the Israeli company to declare it “unattainable debt”.