Israel Electric Corporation’s response to Gisha’s Freedom of Information application reveals what took place behind the scenes of the decision to reduce electricity supply to Gaza

  • The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) asked the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to reduce power supply to Gaza already in May, a month before the cabinet met to finalize the decision. The IEC management took immediate steps to determine how it would implement the directive.
  • The board directed management to coordinate the reduction with all relevant officials “in order to minimize as much as possible the impact on essential needs in Gaza,” pointing to their awareness that such a reduction would cause harm to civilians.
  • Direct coordination is being maintained with electricians in Gaza with respect to load management and troubleshooting.
  • The reduction in supply could lead to a total blackout, which would last for hours.

August 1, 2017: As soon as Israel began implementing a decision to reduce the supply of electricity sold to the Gaza Strip, Gisha sent Freedom of Information applications to the following bodies: The Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Defense and the Israel Electric Corporation. The requests seek to gain insight into the factors that had been taken into account during the decision-making process and to determine whether those involved were aware of the impact the reduction could have on the lives of Gaza residents. Until now, 47 days later, we have only received a response from the Electric Corporation.

The documents shared by the IEC reveal that its board of directors held a special meeting on June 15, a month after receiving a request to reduce supply from COGAT. In the meeting, the board reviewed a legal opinion on the matter prepared by management and approved the implementation of the reduction in supply. The documents imply that members of the board were aware that people’s lives would be adversely impacted by the reduction, and therefore asked the management to coordinate with relevant government bodies to “minimize as much as possible the impact on essential needs in the Gaza Strip.”

Since the reduction in supply was implemented, hospitals have been compelled to shut down entire wards and life-saving treatments are compromised; water is less frequently distributed to homes and public institutions, and utility companies struggle to pump sewage away from residential areas. Large quantities of nearly untreated sewage are flowing in the sea and on land; households and shops have trouble storing fresh foods, and; businesses cannot operate effectively, hindering economic activity. Israelis living in proximity to the Strip have begun to feel the impact of the situation in Gaza.

In the wake of the current electricity crisis in Gaza, the heads of Israeli local councils near the Gaza Strip wrote (Hebrew) to the prime minister and the minister of defense yesterday, demanding action be taken to tackle the pollution, which is seeping into Israel due to the inability of the utility company to treat wastewater, in the absence of electricity – a direct result of the power cuts. The writing is on the wall, and has been all along: Neglecting infrastructure in Gaza and experimentations with the resilience of its population will eventually blowback on residents of the region as a whole. All actors must mobilize and cooperate in order to restore electricity supply to Gaza and even upgrade it. Political disputes require political solutions, while the most basic rights of civilians, to life, health, livelihood, and dignity, must be protected at all times.