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Israel gives initial approval for construction of West Bank power plant

April 12, 2016 6:22 P.M. (Updated: April 13, 2016 10:22 A.M.)
Palestinian electricity company workers drag a destroyed power line in the southern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 6, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel has given initial approval to a Palestinian request to build a power plant in the northern occupied West Bank, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said on Tuesday.

In a statement released in Arabic, COGAT said the project for a gas power plant in the industrial zone of the Jenin district “would cause a qualitative shift in electricity consumption which will have a positive impact on all aspects of life.”

The power plant, the statement added, would produce 450 Megawatts of electricity, which would “reduce electricity bills and protect the environment.”

COGAT added that it planned to intensify its efforts to see the project through in cooperation with relevant Israeli ministries and the Palestinian Authority.

Palestine Investment Fund Chairman Muhammad Mustafa, who submitted the construction request to COGAT, said in a statement on Tuesday that the projected plant would cover 50 percent the West Bank’s electricity needs.

The power plant, Mustafa said, "will be built by Palestinian efforts and capacities, benefiting from international experience in this field."

The construction is expected to cost $620 million, with the station expected to start running by the end of 2019, he added.

Mustafa emphasized that "no Israeli companies have been contracted for the construction of the station or for providing gas." His statement comes more than a year after the Palestine Power Generation Company (PPGC) announced it would terminate a $1.2 billion deal with the Israeli-American Leviathan reservoir partners that would have supplied natural gas to a future Palestinian power plant.

Israeli news website Ynet reported that the project still needed to be referred to “relevant Israeli ministries” for final approval.

Expansion projects to the grid in the occupied West Bank come as Palestinian dependence on Israeli electricity has been an ongoing point of contention between the two parties for years.

The contention arises partially due to massive debt owed by the Palestinian Authority to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), which provides around 88 percent of total electricity consumption in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israeli authorities have withheld tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in the past over unpaid bills owed to Israeli companies.

Earlier this month, the IEC cut off power to a number of Palestinian municipalities over debt owed by the Palestinian Authority amounting to more than 1.7 billion shekels ($447.8 million). The move was denounced at the time as amounting to collective punishment.
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