Israel boosts West Bank power as Gaza endures blackouts
A new electrical substation was inaugurated near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz both attending the ceremony.
"This is definitely an encouraging historic moment in which we are inaugurating the first substation in the Palestinian Authority," Steinitz said at the ceremony, during a rare appearance by an Israeli minister in the occupied West Bank.
Before Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met Hamdallah in Ramallah this May, no member of the internal security cabinet had met a Palestinian official in the West Bank since 2000.
Jason Greenblatt, an adviser for US President Donald Trump, also attended the event, with the official due to hold another round of meetings in the coming days in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The new facility will transmit 60 megawatts of electricity bought from IEC, and comes with a payment guarantee from the PA.
In the past, payment disputes between the PA and Israeli electricity companies have led to blackouts, with Israel cutting power supplies.
The occupied West Bank is completely dependent on Israeli electricity and the substation is one of four that will be operated by a PA-owned company.
"We are about to build a power plant in Jenin that will generate 450 megawatts in the Jenin area. I hope this power plant will start operating in 2020," Hamdallah said.
"We do not want to depend on Israel forever," he added.
Gaza in darkness
The power boost in the West Bank stands in stark contrast to the energy crisis in Gaza, where electricity flows for only two or three hours a day.
Last month, the IEC cut by half the amount of power it supplies the besieged territory after the PA halted payments to the company in a punitive measure designed to pressure Hamas to cede control of the territory.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has also slashed civil servant salaries, dismissed thousands of public sector employees, and reduced medical services to Gaza in an effort to pressure political rival Hamas.
The Fatah-dominated PA blames Hamas for Gaza's energy crisis, saying that the group spends PA energy subsidies on itself, and not civilian infrastructure.
Israel has also long blamed Gaza's humanitarian crisis on Hamas, accusing its leaders of diverting funds away from the civilian population to be spent on military infrastructure and personal expenses.
The United Nations and human rights groups say Israel's decade-long blockade of the territory has led to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, near destroying the economy and condemning the population to poverty and unemployment.
By 2020, Gaza may be "uninhabitable" due to the effects of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, the UN has warned.
Agencies contributed to this report