Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to move ahead with plans to build a gas pipeline to Gaza in an effort to boost energy and water supplies to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
Gaza faces a severe energy crisis, with authorities using an 8-hour on, 8-hour off electricity rationing system. The sole power plant in Gaza routinely operates at half capacity.
A source in the PA told The Times of Israel that Palestinian officials were told the Israeli political echelon gave the go-ahead Tuesday. Israel and the Palestinians are set to jointly request funding for the pipeline from a number of donor countries. A committee comprised of representatives of such donor states is set to meet in New York later this month.
The agreement came amid a number of economic deals between Israel and the PA, including a massive NIS 2 billion ($530 million) Palestinian debt to the state-owned Israel Electric Corporation. Agreements on upgrading the postal service system and 3G cellphone technology in the West Bank were also signed recently.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Netherlands will help Israel build the Israel-Gaza pipeline.
“We want to help the population of Gaza and the first step is to improve the supply of energy and water… including laying a gas pipeline,” Netanyahu said during a two-day visit to The Netherlands at the beginning of this month.
The Netherlands has been heavily involved in the plans, working closely with the Mideast Quartet — the US, UN, EU and Russia — to launch a feasibility study on the pipeline.
With the support of the Dutch government, the Quartet “initiated a feasibility study for a natural gas pipeline to Gaza… [which] will take the project from the conceptual stage to the implementation stage,” according to a Quartet document.
“A completed feasibility study will equip all parties with the information required (including the preferred pipeline route) to develop detailed project implementation plans and cost estimates,” the document said.
The organization said it launched and is chairing the Gas for Gaza (dubbed G4G by the Quartet) Task Force to “provide all relevant stakeholders with information coming out of the feasibility study as it progresses and to provide a platform for all stakeholders to coordinate and work together until the project is implemented.”
Qatar, the Quartet said, has played “a very constructive role” in supporting the project and will continue to work on it.