For the past two years, the Palestinian Authority has not been paying its electric bill to the Israel Electric Company. Now that company would like to be paid, and has said that If it does not receive payment o the $156 million debt that the PA still owes for two years of electricity, It will have to turn off the power.
Here’s Version #1 of this tale, the one that most of the world’s media will disseminate:
The colonial-settler state of Israel has once again demonstrated to the world just how cruel it can be toward the Palestinians. The latest outrage is this: Israel’s Electric Company has actually demanded that the PA pay at once its outstanding bill for the electricity that It has come to rely on during the past two years. This demand comes out of the blue, and at the very moment when the Palestinians are suffering financially. Both EU donors, and Gulf Arab donors, have chosen to reduce their contributions to the PA by at least 80% in 2021. Meanwhile, the PA has been lulled by the IEC into a false sense of security, the feeling that it could postpone that IEC payment until such time as donors could be found to help pay the bill. Israel knows what financial straits the PA is now in, but has done nothing to dissuade the IEC from presenting its non-negotiable claim for payment. The IEC will show the Palestinians no mercy; the company has warned the cash-strapped Palestinians that if the debt were not paid within a week of its notice being received, the electricity will be cut off to the PA-administered territories in the West Bank. The Israelis know that the PA can’t come up with the money, but they have been unwilling to even suggest a possible solution, such as a long-term payment plan, with the debt being paid down pari passu with the amount of aid money the Palestinians manage to now raise.
But why should anyone be surprised that the Israel Electric Company would be so grasping and so unfeeling when it comes to money? It’s part of the Jewish state, after all. And how are Palestinian families expected to survive without the electricity needed to heat their nurseries for the new-born, their bedrooms, their hospitals, their modest homes, and to cook their food and provide light for their classrooms and study halls? Surely this is a matter for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate. If Israel’s electricity company does carry out its threat and cuts off the electricity that is so desperately needed by the Palestinians, that will constitute one more Israeli “crime against humanity.” There have been so many, which is why the UNHRC decided it had to create a permanent agenda item (#7) that deals with the “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” The IEC’s denial of electricity, so critical to the survival of the Palestinians, and its unwillingness to bargain in good faith with the PA over a possible installment plan for payments, shocks the collective consciousness. The international community must not allow the IEC’s decision to stand.
Version #2 has the same facts, but a different perspective.
For two years, the Palestinian Authority has been receiving electricity from the Israel Electric Company. In that time, the PA has racked up a an accumulated debt of around NIS 500 million ($156.8 million USD) to the IEC. And like any company, the IEC cannot continue to carry such a debt on its books; it needs to be paid. A report on this is here: “Amid heavy debt, PA delegation head to Gulf on fundraising mission,” by Daniel Siryoti, Israel Hayom, October 28, 2021:
In mid-October, the IEC issued the first of two notices sent to the PA about the outstanding debt. This week, the second notice was issued; it said that if the debt was not paid within one week, power will be cut to various PA-controlled areas of the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Israel Hayom has learned that due to the PA’s severe shortage of funds and amassing debt, a delegation of senior Palestinian officials left Ramallah several days ago on a fundraising mission to Gulf and Arab states.
A senior PA official told Israel Hayom that the IEC debt issue would be resolved in the coming days.
The Palestinian Authority has less funds, as compared to previous years, because the donors in Europe and in the Gulf have become disenchanted with the PA. The European donors are disturbed by the massive corruption in the PA, whose leaders have diverted so much of the aid money into their own pockets, as well as those of their relatives and friends The Europeans are now convinced that there is no , prospect of the PA reforming itself, and casting out the corrupt; the EU is unhappy, too, that the PA continues to ignore its repeated promise to cleanse its schoolbooks of antisemitism. Among the Gulf Arabs who were once such generous donors to the PA, there is a belief that the Palestinians have been indulged and supported by them long enough, that their leaders, in both the PA and Hamas, are thieves, and – as the Saudi Crown Prince angrily told Mahmoud Abbas in 2018 – they should “accept whatever deal the Americans offer.”
What is most disturbing about the PA’s failure to pay its bill is that it could easily pay the IEC bill If it so chose. All it has to do is rearrange its priorities. The PA is not broke. It continues with its “Pay-For-Slay” program, according to which it provides generous stipends both to imprisoned terrorists and to the families of terrorists who died during the attacks they carried out. The “Pay-For-Slay” program costs the PA about $350 million a year. Its unpaid electricity bill from the IEC amounts to about $78 million a year, that is, less than one-quarter the amount that the PA spends on its “Pay-For-Slay” program.
All Mahmoud Abbas need do to pay the IEC’s unpaid electricity bill is to take that $156.8 million from the “Pay-For-Slay” budget for 2021-22, which will still leave that program with $200 million that can be used to subsidize terrorists and their families, even after it pays in full what it owes the IEC. The PA will still be rewarding past, and incentivizing future, terrorism, but not quite to the same horrific extent as it has been until now.
Does anyone find that unfair? Doesn’t the IEC deserve to be paid for the electricity it has provided unstintingly for two years, putting up with non-payment by the PA for as long as it could, but finally demanding what it is owed, in the full knowledge that despite its constant poor-mouthing, the PA still has enough to spend $350 million a year on its Pay-For-Slay program?