Reducing the volume of electricity supplied by Israel to Gaza is a red line that cannot be crossed

Thursday, April 27, 2017: According to an announcement today by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Palestinian Authority (PA) notified COGAT that payment for electricity supplied by Israel to the Gaza Strip would be stopped, effective immediately. Israel supplies Gaza with 120 megawatts (MW), through ten electricity lines. The monthly cost of this supply is approximately 40 million shekels (roughly 11 million dollars), which Israel deducts from taxes it collects on behalf of the PA (including on goods paid for by residents of Gaza themselves, to the tune of billions of shekels per year).

Gaza’s sole power plant has been out of commission since Saturday April 15, following a dispute between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the de facto Hamas authorities in the Strip over payment of excise taxes. As a result of the shutdown of the plant, the 120 MW of electricity supplied by Israel amount to more than 80 percent of the total electricity supply currently available to Gaza residents.

Earlier this week, Gisha cautioned against the severe impact of the electricity shortage in the Strip, which has caused havoc and is threatening the lives of residents of Gaza: hospitals have been forced to shut down essential services, water desalination facilities are out of commission, distribution of water to households is disrupted, and massive quantities of untreated sewage are being pumped into the sea.

Residents of Gaza cannot endure an interruption of the electricity supply from Israel and cuts of the kinds discussed would have catastrophic consequences. Israel committed before the High Court in 2008 (HCJ 9132/07) to supply residents of Gaza with sufficient electricity to meet humanitarian needs.

Using the humanitarian needs and basic human rights of two million people in Gaza as bargaining chips in political power struggles is unconscionable, regardless of which authorities are doing so – in Gaza, Ramallah, Egypt or Israel.  

Reducing the volume of electricity supplied by Israel to the Strip is a red line that cannot be crossed. Toying with the humanitarian needs of two million residents of Gaza cannot be used as a means to achieve political objectives. Instead, all parties responsible for the dire state of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure – the PA, Hamas authorities, Egypt, the international community, and particularly Israel – must cooperate to find a solution immediately. A holistic solution will have to include sustained movement of people and goods through the crossings. These are not only the basic human rights to which residents of Gaza are inherently entitled; they are the essential building blocks of economic activity and well-being, and thus also regional stability and security.