In the face of possible electricity blackouts at home this coming summer,
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan called on the government Sunday
morning to cease supplying power to the Gaza Strip.
cutting supplies to residents of Israel, the government must reconsider its
policy of providing electricity to the Hamas “terror authority” in Gaza, the
minister said. Asserting that he had no intention of sanctioning Gaza, and
certainly not its residents, Erdan explained that terminating the power supply
was simply a matter of recognizing the biblical phrase, “The poor of your city
come first,” according to a letter he sent the other ministers.
minister of environmental protection, they demanded that I give permission to
activate power plants with fuels that are polluting – and will cause more
pollution than what can occur under Israeli law, by international standards,”
Erdan told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday evening. “But I have to approve
it because [without] electricity people might die.”
Even after adopting a
series of measures proposed by Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau to handle
the shortage – which the cabinet approved on Sunday afternoon – the government
could fall short in providing stable electricity throughout the summer, Erdan
This is the case, even after taking rare measures such as
reactivating the Reading natural gas power plant in Tel Aviv as a heavy fuel
operator, he added.
“After taking all these steps it will still have to
cut electricity to places in Israel, to citizens in Israel that are paying their
bills,” Erdan said. “It’s illogical and it’s immoral not to start with
the people in Gaza. In Gaza we are not obliged to supply
Currently, Israel allocates about 4.5 percent of its
electricity production to the Palestinian Authority, of which less than half –
around 160 megawatts – is intended for Gazan use, according to the
“Those are exactly the 160 megawatts you need [in Israel] when
the demands are very high,” Erdan said.
While there is a power plant in
Gaza, the facility operates at only 30% capacity.
According to Erdan, the shortfall is due to a PA request asking Israel to stop bringing diesel and fuel
oil to the strip, as opposed to Hamas not paying its bills properly to the
In response to Erdan’s suggestion, Palestinian Energy and Natural
Resources Authority – headed by Dr. Omar Kittaneh – said it “strongly condemns”
Erdan’s proposal and charged that such a decision would deprive 1.7 million
Palestinians of a basic humanitarian need.
“We consider these remarks a
clear threat targeting the Palestinian people and genocide against our people
and their rights,” the authority said in a statement.
“We see these
remarks as a continuation of the crime against our people, which began in 2006
with the bombing of the power plant and imposing the blockade.” The authority
stressed that Erdan’s remarks would not break the steadfastness of the
After hearing the Palestinian response, Erdan
stressed that Israel is striving to provide help and assistance, “even when they
“I really feel mercy for the people in Gaza, that they
don’t understand that the money their regime is getting from around the world –
instead of being used for building infrastructure and energy – is being used for
weaponry,” he told the Post.
“We are willing to help them with
everything,” Erdan said.
“But what can we do when seven years after the
disengagement, instead of using the money to develop power plants or
desalination, everything is going to be missiles.”
Erdan said he was not
worried about how Israel’s global image would be affected by the electricity
decision, as “in every decision we take in Israel, someone criticizes Israel of
“It’s not as a punishment – we will supply them whatever we
can,” he continued. “It’s not that we don’t want to supply them, it’s that we
can’t. We are out of electricity.”
Several ministers agreed offthe-
record with Erdan’s suggestion, but said it would best to keep it separate from
the summer shortage proposals, a source told the Post.
Shaffer, an expert on energy policy and management at the School of Political
Science at the University of Haifa, said she felt that “there are a lot of
easier things to do than saying just cut off their supply.”
that Israel could allow for the development of the 30 billion cubic meters (BCM)
of gas in the Gaza Marine natural gas field.
“We have an interest [in
them] producing electricity from natural gas instead of diesel,” she
In addition, Israel could reduce the operations of some of its
high-power consuming industries such as Haifa Oil Refineries, Shaffer
At the beginning of the cabinet meeting, Landau responded that the
energy and water ministry will investigate solutions to the shortages, and
focusing on that alone.
During Sunday’s cabinet discussion, the
government approved Landau’s proposals for handling the expected power shortages
that he unveiled last week, with a few amendments from the original draft
The official shortage period in the approved version was
extended through October 31, thereby eliminating the minister’s initial
authority to lengthen the period by an additional three months. The new version
of the proposal also called for an assessment of the Reading power
While Landau’s original proposal recommended a 30-megawatt
increase in solar rooftop allocations for the summer – which would need to be
installed by July 1 – the approved draft extended that deadline to August 1, and
brought forward the 2014 solar rooftop quota of 35 megawatts for use
Environmentalists who initially criticized Landau’s timetable as
short and unrealistic now welcomed the adjusted provision.
is just one step in the right direction,” said Eitan Parness, CEO of the
Renewable Energy Association of Israel. “The government has accepted the
demands of the green organizations and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad
Erdan and has recognized the validity of solar power as a means to tackle the
expected electricity shortage.”
Parness urged the Public Utility
Authority and the Israel Electric Corporation to act swiftly in order to
implement the government decision as soon as possible.
“In the coming
years, we will see solar power growing and thousands of new solar roof tops and
solar power plants will change the way electricity is produced,” Parness
“This is a small victory in terms of megawatts, but a big one for
all the promoters of green electricity in Israel.”
This summer, the
country will have a reserve of only 6.4% – or 776 megawatts – during peak
electricity demand hours, according to the authority.
of Landau’s now-approved proposal include the expansion of electricity supply –
by means of diesel generators and transportable gas turbines – as well as an
ability to activate these generators without limitations.
also suggests shifting some quantities of gas in cases of emergency from the
Essential Service Supplier – the IEC or East Jerusalem Electric Company – to
partially or fully paralyzed private power plants.
Stressing that the
public must be made aware of the upcoming shortages, the proposal suggests
reducing power usage among consumers.
Meanwhile, military bases should
join the “mobile summit” framework, which requires that mobile generators not
operate more than 100 hours per year.
Both Landau and Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the cabinet’s decision to approve the summer
“The government made an important decision today, which will allow
the state to better prepare for the expected power drought this summer,” Landau
said. “Cooperation between the ministries to implement the decision is crucial,
in order to prevent blackouts.”
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this