After the Israel Electric Corporation warned this week that West Bank Arabs might soon experience power cuts due to hundreds of millions of unpaid debts, the sides involved have come to a temporary understanding that will delay the potential outages.

“It is an understanding that they will postpone the procedures after our Id,” Hisham Omari, CEO of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO), told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Ramadan concludes this year on August 18, while the holiday of Id al-Fitr – the festival of fast-breaking – occurs on August 19 and celebrations continue a few days after.

On Tuesday, the IEC had sent a letter to Omari saying that his company owes the Israeli firm NIS 432 million in unpaid debts. Should the debts remain unpaid, the IEC would both issue intermittent electricity cuts throughout the JDECO electricity region and also freeze the company’s Jerusalem assets.

Meanwhile, the IEC also announced that the Palestinian Authority owes an additional NIS 239m. in debts from electricity use in Gaza and in portions of the West Bank outside JDECO’s jurisdiction. JDECO’s region of responsibility includes areas such as east Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho.

On Tuesday night, however, Palestinian Energy Authority chairman Omar Kittaneh and IEC CEO Eli Glickman agreed to postpone negotiations over the matter for another 10 days, until the end of the Id holiday, according to Omari. During this time, the Palestinian government must decide upon an amount of money that it will transfer as a down payment to the IEC, after which the two bodies will agree upon a monthly debt repayment fee to fulfill the rest, Omari explained.

“It is not a deal. It is an understanding,” he said. “Hopefully after the 10 days we will achieve a deal.”

As far as his own company’s debts go, Omari has largely blamed these on Palestinian refugee camp residents who refuse to pay their electricity bills, as well as NIS 120m. owed to him by PA government agencies that have faltered on their payments. The government, he said, is actively working on a way to repay its debt to JDECO and will hopefully provide a time frame soon.

To encourage the refugees to pay their electricity bills, the government is considering introducing special, partially subsidized tariffs to the camps, Omari explained. After agreeing to pay these tariffs, the residents would receive fully functional, renewed networks as well as new power meters.

“I am not so optimistic about this step because I know that in many refugee camps they do not pay,” Omari said. “Hopefully this is a step that the authority will take after the holiday – to make the refugee camps pay. Also, we have to negotiate with the authority about the entire debt that exists in the refugee camps.”

Kittaneh did not return numerous requests for comment from the Post.

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