Israel's state-run electricity company was set Thursday to reduce the power supply one of the Palestinian Authority's major cities over a debt of $450 million, an Israeli official said.
The decision by the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) applies to the city of Jericho near the Jordanian border, and comes after the Palestinian Authority and the private Jerusalem District Electricity Company failed to pay longstanding dues, the official said. The Jerusalem District Electricity Company operates in eastern Jerusalem and the surrounding villages.
The debt currently amounts to more than 1.7 billion shekels ($450 million), according to the energy industry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We've informed all the relevant parties, and after endless attempts to reach arrangements, we've decided to act to reduce the debt," the official said, adding that the Jericho move was "open-ended."
In January 2015, the IEC cut the power to PA cities for a number of hours every day over a similar debt. It ceased doing so, however, the following month despite the standing debt after the US State Department criticized the move.
The Israeli Finance Ministry and Prime Minister's office, which would normally be involved in any decision to reduce the electricity to the Palestinian Authority, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Palestinian Authority officials did not immediately comment either.
Some Israeli leaders have suggested using PA tax money collected by Israel to pay off the massive debt.
In 2015, then Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom demanded Israel take steps to ensure that Israelis were not left with the PA’s bill.
“It is inconceivable that the people of Israel will pay the Palestinian debt and we will ensure that the Palestinians will pay their debt to the last shekel.”