The unpaid Palestinian electricity bill

Have a guess how much the unpaid bill for supplying electricity to the PA is. When you have made your guess, continue reading.

Ready? Then, how close was your guess to this:

NIS 1.7 billion.

On the assumption a billion here is the US billion (1,000,000,000) that makes the debt about:

442 million dollars, or

289 million pounds.

What is going on?

“”If you don’t pay for electricity, they let it go for one month, they give you a warning in the second month, and they cut off your electricity in the third month. We haven’t got to that yet with the Palestinian Authority (PA). My unequivocal stance is that anyone who doesn’t pay for electricity should have it cut off, and since the PA doesn’t pay like it should, actual measures should be taken by limiting the supply of electricity. If that doesn’t help, their electricity should be cut off…”

Thus spake Israel Electric Corporation chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal in an interview this week.

Somebody, somewhere, previously decided not to punish the Palestinians for the unpaid bill. Or, not so much punish, as take the appropriate action: cut off supply.

Now, you can argue about whether that would have been right morally, or politically, but here’s little room for argument as to the effect on future Palestinian conduct. In other words, they were bound to continue the practice of non payment. And they did, indeed, not pay.

At this point in time, it’s worth pondering where the aid budget goes. if not to pay for basics like electricity.

As reported by Globes, it could be that the situation will shortly be more prominent in the eyes of the world:

Ron-Tal made it clear that he intended to limit the flow of electricity to the PA soon, as has already happened before, saying, “As a government company, we have to coordinate what we do with the government, but I intend – already in the coming weeks – to again limit the flow of electricity to the PA until it pays, or until the problem is solved by government decisions. This will not continue at the expense of the citizens of Israel; it’s a scandal.”

He’s right. But Israel has, by dint of a whopper of an error of judgement in not enforcing payment from the outset, dug itself into a bit of a corner. If it takes steps, how will the world see this? You can bet Israel will not be seen in a favorable light, even if it sends the cut off notice with pink ribbons and rosewater perfume.

But, realistically, it cannot continue. And Israel may have to endure ordure and condemnation on the way to sorting things out. I bet this problem is being ignored by the government in the hope it will go away. It won’t. It is a scandal, and the government needs to wake up and sort it out, for all sorts of reasons. Apart from the economics of it all, what message does this send to the Palestinian leadership about Israeli resolve for dealing with real issues?