Gisha in an urgent letter to Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman: Reducing Israel’s electricity supply to Gaza is a red line that must not be crossed

  • According to recent statements, Israel is considering “accepting the Palestinian Authority’s request” to reduce the amount of electricity sold to Gaza.
  • Gaza residents already at risk; Experts warn of an imminent humanitarian crisis in the Strip.
  • Eighty to 100 percent of electricity currently available to Gaza residents supplied by Israel; Israel’s control over entrance of construction materials and spare parts needed for repair, maintenance and development of Gaza’s infrastructure is absolute.
  • Israel’s 50 years of ongoing control over Gaza bring with it responsibility to initiate and promote immediate, broad and sustainable solutions that will allow residents to lead life with dignity.

Sunday, June 11, 2017: Gisha, in an urgent letter to Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, warns against an impending humanitarian crisis in Gaza should Israel decrease current electricity supply to the Strip. The letter was sent following reports of Israel’s plans to reduce the amount of electricity it has sold Gaza for years (120 megawatts), as a result of the Palestinian Authority’s decision to cut funding of electricity to the Strip.

As emphasized in the letter, the current situation in Gaza is already grave enough, with serious risks posed to the two million residents of Gaza. The Strip’s sole power plant has been out of commission since mid-April due to a financial dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Subsequently, 80 to 100 percent of the electricity available to residents of Gaza is what is currently being sold and supplied by Israel (the exact portion depends on fluctuating supply from Egypt). At this point in time, 100 million liters of mostly untreated sewage are being pumped into the Mediterranean Sea daily; residents receive no more than four hours of electricity at a time, followed by at least twelve hours of blackouts; water desalination stations cannot operate; sewage cannot be pumped away from residential areas; generators are over-extended; entire hospital wings are shut down during blackouts, and people who rely on life-saving equipment are at risk. Reducing the electricity supply will have devastating consequences and greatly exacerbate the situation, which is calamitous and unstable as is.

Even when Gaza’s power plant is fully functioning, the total amount of electricity available to residents, including electricity purchased from Egypt, only amounts to about half of demand. This severe deficit developed throughout the years of Israel’s direct and indirect control over the Strip. Despite the implementation of the Disengagement Plan in 2005, Israel continues to control many aspects of life in Gaza. Israel is not just a service provider, responding neutrally to a client’s request. Given its extensive control over life in the Strip, Israel is responsible for enabling normal life for its residents. Israel is obligated to find solutions that will allow for the continued supply of electricity at existing capacity, and to take active steps toward increasing supply, to allow residents access to acceptable living conditions.

The collective responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, the de-facto Hamas government in Gaza, Egypt, and the international community for the dire state of Gaza’s infrastructure does not diminish Israel’s marked accountability for the situation. As senior political and military figures in Israel have stated, particularly since 2014, improving living conditions in Gaza and supporting economic development are also square within Israel’s interests. In practice, Israel’s policy of restrictions on Gaza contradicts its self-professed interests, putting the region as a whole at risk of another unnecessary round of hostilities.

Reducing Israel’s electricity supply to Gaza is a red line that must not be crossed. This suggestion should be taken off the table entirely. Action must be taken to bring Gaza’s infrastructure to a level that meets the needs of its residents.

The letter to Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman can be viewed here.