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Israel's high court bans Israeli company from punitive power cuts to West Bank

Aug. 26, 2017 9:37 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 13, 2017 10:29 P.M.)
(File)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Supreme Court has issued a temporary order preventing the Israeli Electric Corporation (IEC) from cutting power to the occupied West Bank as a punitive measure for outstanding Palestinian debts.

The court will have a final decision on the case in two months, according to Hisham al-Omari, the head of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO) -- the Palestinian power company.

He said it was the second time the court issued such an order upon an appeal submitted by JDECO, after threats from IEC to turn off electricity to the West Bank.

In April 2016, IEC asked the Israeli Supreme Court for permission to disconnect JDECO grids due to accumulated debts, as the Israeli company imposed a spate punitive power cuts in major Palestinian cities across the occupied West Bank, which was denounced as constituting collective punishment.

After months of deliberations, the court rejected IEC’s request and issued a temporary order preventing the disconnection of JDECO's grids.

Al-Omari said that IEC has continued to threaten to cut power despite an agreement that Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed in September 2016, which aimed to settle all electricity debt and to position the PA as the sole authority over electricity distribution across the occupied West Bank.

According to Israeli media, IEC has reportedly claimed that JDECO has not been paying the full monthly amount agreed upon since the agreement was signed, and since then JDECO’s debt has risen by an additional 200 million shekels, on top of the some two billion shekels ($530 million), which has been a source of tension between the two parties for years.

JDECO has reportedly had difficulty collecting debts from their clients and is also losing money due to differing tariff rates from what the IEC charges them and what they charge their clients, according to reports.

In the past, Israeli authorities have withheld tax revenues collected on behalf of the PA over unpaid bills owed to Israeli companies, threatening in 2015 to deduct over 1 billion shekels from taxes withheld from the PA in order to cover missed electricity bills.
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