The Israel Electric Corporation on Thursday cut electricity supply to the Palestinian city of Jericho in half, after the Palestinian Authority and the Jerusalem District Electric Company’s debt swelled to over NIS 1.7 billion ($451 million).
The PA has confirmed the existence of the debt and said that negotiations are being held in order to rectify the situation, according to Haaretz.
Several attempts have been made by the IEC to negotiate a debt settlement with the PA and the Jerusalem District Electric Company, but when they proved unsuccessful, the power was finally cut.
The decision to cut half of Israel’s supply to Jericho, which is located in the Jordan Valley, takes into account the fact that the city receives half of its electrical supply from Jordan, which means the power can be made up from other sources without blacking out customers.
The bulk of the debt, NIS 1.4 billion ($371 million) is owed by the Jerusalem District Electric Company, with the remaining NIS 300,000 ($79,350) by the PA, according to IEC.
“We’ve informed all the relevant parties, and after endless attempts to reach arrangements, we’ve decided to act to reduce the debt,” an Israeli official said, adding that the Jericho move was “open-ended.”
In January 2015, the IEC cut the power to Palestinian cities for a number of hours every day over a similar debt.
It ceased doing so the following month despite the standing debt.
The Israeli Finance Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office, which would normally be involved in any decision to reduce the electricity to the Palestinians, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Palestinian Authority officials did not immediately comment, either.
Hisham al-Omri, director of the Jerusalem District Electric Company, told Haaretz that the corporation was never officially notified of the impending cut in electricity, despite ongoing negotiations between the two parties up until several hours before the cut. He also said that the cut exceeds 50 percent of Israel’s supply.
Also, according to al-Omri, the electric line from Jordan is currently under renovations, meaning that the supply of electricity from Jordan will not be steady.
“We do not agree with the IEC on a matter regarding rate calculation and interest rates,” al-Omri told Haaretz. “And so we have a pending lawsuit against the IEC in the Jerusalem Municipal Court.