Photo: Yossi Weiss
'Why doesn't IEC apply the payment arrangements of Qalqilya's residents to Israelis in Israel?'
Photo: Yossi Weiss
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Gideon Eshet
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

Palestinians getting free electricity from Israel

Op-ed: While Israelis who fail to pay their electric bills are immediately cut off from power supply, Palestinians get away with it.

How much do Palestine's residents pay for the electricity they purchase? After all, they don’t produce their own electricity. All the electricity they consume is bought from the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). Sometimes, if the resident is an Israeli/settler, the purchase is made directly from the IEC. In most cases, the purchase is made through the east Jerusalem electrical company, or the Palestinian local authorities.



While the Jewish/settler consumer lives under the threat of being cut off from the power supply if he fails to pay, the Palestinian consumer lives in quite a good world, electrically speaking. Only about half of the Palestinian consumers pay their electricity bill – and the rest pay less than the Palestinian supplier's cost.


What happens with those who don't pay? In a regular situation, it can be assumed that their supplier – the east Jerusalem electrical company or the local authority – would cut them off. But that doesn't happen. What happens is that the consumers don't pay, the supplier doesn't cut them off, and the best part: The supplier doesn’t pay whoever sells him the electricity – in other words, the IEC. The even more interesting thing is that the IEC, which doesn't receive the payment it is entitled to, doesn't cut off the power either.


The IEC workers, whose labor agreement grants them free electricity, provoke a lot of anger. How can it be? The big committees? Their control over the switch? All the righteous of the generation attacked and cursed the workers. And now it turns out that there are not several thousand but several million people, not even Israelis, who get free electricity – and Uzi Landau, Silvan Shalom and Benjamin Netanyahu are keeping mum.


This is not a simple matter: Two Israeli presidency candidates, two energy ministers and one prime minister are aware of a situation in which Palestine's residents receive free electricity. And not just Palestine's residents – only those who are not Israeli. The IEC is in debt of about NIS 70 billion, and the "instigators" from Palestine get free electricity.


Let's assume – for reasons of the peace negotiations bluff – that there may be a point in subsidizing those controlled by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah clique. But the subsidy is also given in its full form to all the "war mongers" of Hamas, which controls Gaza and showers us – although not very frequently recently – with its best rockets. But the power lines continue to loyally transport free electricity to this group.


The debt, if you're wondering, reaches some NIS 1.3 billion. And it grows, according to reports, by some NIS 70 million a month. The issue created a buzz because the IEC is uncertain how to define this debt in its books. As if someone really cares about the financial reports. When the IEC's Board of Directors Chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal was asked about it, he replied that the IEC was forbidden to cut the power supply. An attempt to understand who issued the prohibition was unsuccessful. A hint was made towards the energy ministers and the prime minister.


Unfortunately, however, the energy minister and even the prime minister have no authority of this kind. The decision to make a move which completely contradicts the corporation's interest belongs exclusively to the Knesset, according to Article 4(a) in the Government Companies Law. And such an approval – to prohibit cutting the power supply to Palestinians who have failed to pay their bills – was not given.


Everyone is burying their head in this mud: The minister in charge of a company which owes tens of billions in debt; the board of directors, which is hiding behind an illegal ministerial order; the company's management, which cuts off every Israeli who fails to pay. It is as if everyone doesn't know, doesn’t hear and mainly – doesn't cut off.


If we're already at that, why don't they apply the payment arrangements of Qalqilya's residents to Israelis in Israel?


פרסום ראשון: 02.28.14, 08:12
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