High-ranking Palestinian and Israeli officials gathered in a field outside the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday to turn on the first-ever piece of Palestinian-owned electricity infrastructure and ink a new electricity agreement between the two sides.
The deal, hailed as “historic” by signatories, will for the first time set parameters for the supply of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which for years has seen the PA default on billions of shekels of debt and Israel subsequently withhold electricity.
After the signing of the agreement, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz, Israel Electric Corporation Chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major General Yoav Mordechai together turned on the Al-Jalameh Substation.
Al-Jalameh is the Jenin-region village nearest to the station, in the northern West Bank.
The station will allow Israel to send up to 135 more megawatts to the northern West Bank area, though the agreement currently calls for just 60 more. The energy will provide a much-needed boost to the Jenin area, which has suffered power outages more than any other Palestinian West Bank region.
The station also represents the first time the Palestinians will be able to control the distribution of the electricity to their own towns and cities.
The PA will still have to buy its power from the Israel Electric Corporation. But apart from that, once the power is handed off to the PA, it’s in Palestinian hands.
When infrastructure breaks down — which once necessitated Israeli teams escorted by the army to perform repairs, which inevitably caused delays — Palestinian teams will be responsible for dealing with any problems.
The station was built by the Israel Electric Corporation, by both Israeli and Palestinian workers, but it is owned by the Palestinian Electric Authority (PEA) and the PA. The IEC also trained Palestinians to work, maintain and fix the site.
Jenin is the first region to receive a substation, but three more are on the way — in the Hebron region in the south, in the Ramallah region in the center and in Nablus in the mid-northern West Bank. With all four stations, the Palestinian Authority will control the power flow across all the territory it controls.
Hamdallah, the PA prime minister, described the project as “pivotal to enhance our independence so we can meet the growing needs of our people in the electricity sector.”
He thanked Israel for “its cooperation to facilitate” the completion of the project.
These substations are only the first phase in a plan to make the Palestinians more energy independent.
The document signed on Monday only pertains to the Jenin area. It is a smaller agreement that is meant to pave the way for a contract that will deal with the entirety of electricity cooperation between Israel and the PA.
The Al-Jalameh station, built in three years, was bought from the IEC for 12 million euros.
The project was partially subsidized by Italy, Norway, the European Union, USAID, and the European Investment Bank.
In September 2016, the PA and Israel signed an agreement that transferred control of West Bank electrical infrastructure to the PA. Under that deal, the PA also began paying off its outstanding power bill of NIS 2 billion ($560 million).
Three quarters of that is still owed, and is meant to be paid off in 48 installments.
The contract signed on Monday allows the IEC to increase electricity supply to the Jenin region without fearing the piling up of more debt from the Palestinians.For full article read here