Electricity Restored in PA Cities After Initial Debt Repayment

YERUSHALAYIM -
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A worker of Israel Electric Corporation is raised by crane to a utility pole to perform maintenance works, on the outskirts of Yerushalayim. (Flash90)

After a week of power cuts to Palestinian Authority cities, the Israel Electric Corporation announced Wednesday that it had reached a tentative arrangement with the PA and the East Jerusalem Power Company for the repayment of a NIS 1.74 billion ($450 million) debt that is owed the IEC. The PA is set to transfer NIS 20 million to the IEC Wednesday as part of its first payment.

Over the past week, the IEC cut power to various PA cities for hours each day, streaming just 50 percent of the normal flow of electricity to Chevron, Beit Lechem, Yericho, Ramallah, and Shechem. The move was approved by defense officials, the report said. Previous attempts to cut power to PA cities, including Shechem and Ramallah, were met with opposition from officials who feared it would increase tensions. The current campaign will go on for at least two weeks, the IEC said.

Last year, the IEC cut power twice for several hours to several PA cities before the government intervened, and gave the company NIS 300 million from customs fees and taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA. After that initial payment, however, the rest of the debt remained unpaid, and continued growing.

The IEC said Wednesday that it would immediately enter talks with the PA to establish a repayment schedule. However, if an agreement is not reached by next week, the IEC said that it would return to its policy of cutting power. The company also thanked Energy, Water, and Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz for his assistance in making the arrangements for the initial payment.