We Israelis love to grumble but on occasion, our gripes aren’t irrational. The
spate of price hikes that recently hit us from all directions may be unavoidable
due to factors outside anyone’s direct control but they hurt nonetheless.
Electricity charges offer a cogent case in point.
We are paying
inordinately more than we did a year ago, chiefly because natural gas from Egypt
is no longer available to fire up our power stations. However, some consumers of
the much more expensive electricity currently generated by the Israel Electric
Corporation figure they deserve it for free.
Thus the Palestinian
Authority has racked up a steadily mounting debt that already exceeds NIS 700
Moreover, there’s no indication of any alarm about it in
Ramallah. It appears that the authorities there are quite content to have
average Israelis pick up the PA’s tab.
Serial non-fulfillment of
financial obligations by Ramallah – in many spheres, not only vis-à-vis the IEC
– is no secret, although our own powers-that-be prefer to steer clear of
unpleasantness, even if it means ignoring a festering sore.
Yet as the
arrears accumulate, the problem becomes substantially harder to disregard. This
basically is what Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) wrote
to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier this week, with copies to the
finance and foreign ministers.
Landau stressed in his message that the
IEC should not have to sustain the losses caused by the PA’s
Neither, he added, is it conscionable “to increase the
charges levied on ordinary Israelis because of accrued debts arising from
consumption in areas under the PA jurisdiction.”
Landau went on to warn
that unless urgent steps are taken to insure immediate compensation to the IEC,
as well as regular and reliable future payments, he will “instruct the IEC to
resort to necessary means to collect overdue fees with all that this
The bottom line is unambiguous: The government cannot keep
playing nice to avoid damaging the national image at the expense of the
Reimbursing the IEC to the tune of NIS 700m. would cover a
quarter of its overall shortfall and would decrease the outlays from the public
coffers needed to keep it on an even keel. This per force would mean a lesser
burden on taxpayers along with a 3-percent cut in our household electricity
The PA’s uncontrolled fiscal delinquency cannot be subsidized by
Israeli citizens, even if the upshot will be bad press and the usual distortions
that Israel faces abroad.
Various punitive paths are available to the
IEC. It can place a lien on the East Jerusalem Electric Company, which gets its
electricity from the IEC and whose installations are inside Israel.
IEC can cut the power to various PA districts intermittently.
be that Israeli consumers need suffer power shortages themselves, while
underwriting the PA’s residents who enjoy wholesale immunity.
possibility is to deduct compensation from PA moneys in Israel. A final
alternative is to cause deliberate brownouts throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
This would not leave these areas entirely without electricity but would
significantly reduce the power available there.
As the supplier, Israel
clearly possesses a range of options to make sure that its resources and
population are not cynically exploited, especially by inimical forces who lose
no opportunity to ingrain enmity to the Jewish state.
To then expect that
state to keep footing PA bills is akin to accepting extortion. The punishment
with which Israel is threatened is another campaign of vilification if it dares
refuse to bankroll Ramallah.
But the PA needs to be taught that it cannot
be the international community’s whining child who expects everything but isn’t
duty bound to behave in a minimally honorable fashion.
concomitantly needs to show the PA that it will not be cowed by threats of what
boils down to blackmail, that Israel will not suffer losses and inflict pain on
its own citizens just to avoid yet another demonization drive
If we appear afraid of slander, then the weapon of slander may
become an ever-more potent weapon against us.