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Israel pays PA electricity debts with withheld taxes
By SHARON UDASIN
Finance Minister transfers of NIS 435 million of Palestinian financial forfeiture to the Israel Electric Corporation.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz completed the transfer of NIS 435 million worth
of Palestinian financial forfeiture to the Israel Electric Corporation on
Wednesday morning, the ministry announced later in the day.
Palestinian Authority has already accumulated hundreds of millions of shekels in
debt it owes to the IEC, the ministry stressed. While during past political
crises the Israeli government simply decided to delay the transfer of funds to
the PA, in light of the PA’s unilateral request to upgrade its UN status
Steinitz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to transfer the
Palestinian assets directly to the IEC.
The money transferred to the IEC
comes from income taxes collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf each month. These
funds are typically transferred to the PA at the month’s conclusion.
government can deduct allocations for electricity, water, hospital treatments
and other infrastructural services Israel provides to the PA.
the IEC warned it might intermittently cut power supplies to the West Bank due
to NIS 662m. in unpaid debts from Palestinian consumers – a decision that was
postponed due to the Ramadan holiday.
The sum has already risen to nearly
NIS 730m., according to Hisham Omari, CEO of the Jerusalem District Electricity
Company (JDECO), who spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
which provides power to east Jerusalem and the eastern portion of the West Bank,
owed the IEC NIS 423m. as of August, and now owes nearly NIS 460m., according to
Omari. The remaining amount of debt comes from a combination of the Gaza Strip
and areas in the northern and southern West Bank that fall outside JDECO’s
jurisdiction and instead are the PA’s direct responsibility.
Omari told the Post that JDECO’s debt to the IEC was primarily due to the
tendency by refugee camp residents to refuse to pay their electric bills, but
also because government bodies had also failed to pay.
Because the PA is
struggling financially it has cut employees’ wages, creating a situation where
neither government institutions nor their employees are willing to pay their
bills to JDECO. Also, electricity theft is rampant in Area C of the West Bank
because the Palestinian police are unable to patrol there, Omari said.
Gaza, the Hamas government collects fees from residents and businesses for
electricity use, but never transfers them to the Palestinian Energy Authority in
Ramallah, using the money for its own purposes, Omari explained in
All of Gaza, therefore, essentially receives electricity “free of
charge,” he said.
As for Wednesday’s NIS 435m. transfer, Omari said he
learned about it from the media and had not yet received any “formal news that
we can speak about.” There has not yet been any indication as to how the debt
coverage would be distributed and whether JDECO would benefit.
give back this amount I don’t know how they will distribute it,” Omari told the
Post. “If they will include us or not, I don’t have any real official