The Palestinian Authority (PA) signed an agreement with Israel on Tuesday reportedly resolving longstanding debt issues it has with the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) by agreeing to pay some 500 million shekels ($132,034,125) upfront to the IEC.
The agreement was signed after discussions between Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister, Hussein al-Sheikh, Israeli Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon, and head of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Yoav Mordechai.
A spokesperson for Mordechai said in a statement that the agreement was signed after “complicated” and “prolonged talks.”
He added, “We have reached a remarkable decision that will allow the Israel Electricity Company to receive unpaid bills accumulated over more than a decade.”
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the PA provides around 88 percent of the total electricity consumption in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The newspaper added that the initial payment was expected immediately, while another billion shekels ($264,068,250) was expected to be paid by the PA in instalments spanning an extended period of time, and another 500 million shekels would be permanently erased from the PA’s debt.
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The agreement also shifts full responsibility for the collection of electricity bills onto the PA, who in the past had rejected responsibility for the debt, claiming it fell under the jurisdiction of local electricity distribution companies.
Under the new agreement, the PA will provide electricity to local Palestinian electricity companies after purchasing it from Israel, becoming the sole authority for electricity distribution in the occupied West Bank.
The PA’s debt to IEC, now amounting to some two billion shekels ($530 million), has been a source of tension between the two parties for years, as the IEC has repeatedly cut off electricity to the West Bank, most recently in April, when it targeted the Hebron, Bethlehem and Jericho districts in a move which was denounced as constituting collective punishment.
Following a Palestinian appeal, the Israeli Supreme Court in April ordered that IEC suspend its policy.