The Israel Electric Corporation has restricted the flow of electricity to the Palestinian Jerusalem District Electricity Company on Monday over unpaid debts, causing power outages in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, Palestinian media reported Tuesday. The IEC is currently suing the Palestinian company over unpaid debts.
JDECO director Hisham al-Umari said that the IEC stopped providing electricity via two main lines, leading to loss of power in several locations, including some Palestinian Authority buildings, Ma’an News reported.
Al-Umari said that while JDECO did owe the IEC a sizable amount of money — the report put the figure at NIS 974 million ($283 million) — the cut-off was in fact a political effort to pressure the Palestinians over the abduction of three Israeli teens in the West Bank on June 12.
The IEC spokesperson’s office declined to comment to The Times of Israel on the matter.
Earlier this week, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said that Israel should cut off electricity to the West Bank and Gaza as a punitive step, but the IEC move does not appear connected to Danon’s call.
JDECO is a private company that purchases electricity from Israel to supply East Jerusalem and cities in the West Bank. In May, the IEC filed suit at the Jerusalem District Court seeking to collect NIS 531 million ($153 million) from the Palestinian company.
The IEC decided to sue after “intensive contact” with JDECO and Palestinian officials in Ramallah failed to reach a breakthrough.
As well as supplying electricity via JDECO, the Israeli firm also provides power to the Palestinian Authority, which caters to the rest of the West Bank and also supplies power to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The Ramallah-based PA also owes money to the IEC. Both the PA and JDECO ran up debts after failing to collect the full amount they are owed by their own customers.
An energy market insider told AFP in May that the outstanding debt of the JDECO and PA to the IEC stood at NIS 1.5 billion ($434 million) of which around two-thirds was owed by JDECO.
The lawsuit only accounts for around half of that sum.
Israel’s Finance Ministry is offsetting the PA’s outstanding debt to the IEC by deducting funds from the monthly taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government.
But in the case of JDECO, Israel has no mechanism for deducting monies, so the debt has ballooned, the source said, while cutting off power was deemed politically unfeasible.
Until recently, talks were underway to reach a solution, but the Palestinians abruptly halted the negotiations after the signing of a unity deal between the rival leaderships in the West Bank and Gaza, the source said.
AFP contributed to this report.