Erdan: Pull plug on Gaza to avoid Israel shortages (JERUSALEM POST) By SHARON UDASIN 05/14/12)
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In the face of probable electricity blackouts at home this coming
summer, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan called on the
government Sunday morning to cease supplying power to the Gaza Strip.
Before deliberately cutting supplies to residents of Israel, the
government must reconsider its policy of providing electricity to the
Hamas “terror authority” in Gaza. Asserting that he had no intention
of sanctioning Gaza, and certainly not its residents, Erdan explained
that terminating the power supply was simply a matter of recognizing
the biblical phrase, “the poor of your city come first,” according to
a letter he sent the other ministers.
“As a minister of environmental protection, they demanded that I give
permission to activate power plants with fuels that are polluting and
will cause more pollution than what can occur by the Israeli law, by
international standards,” Erdan told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday
evening. “But I have to approve it because if there would be no
electricity people might die.”
Even after adopting a series of measures proposed by Energy and Water
Minister Uzi Landau to handle the shortage, which the cabinet
approved on Sunday afternoon, the government would still likely not
be able to provide a completely stable electricity supply throughout
the summer, Erdan argued. This, after taking such extreme measures as
reactivating the Reading natural gas power plant as a heavy fuel
operator, he added.
“After taking all these steps it will still have to cut electricity
to places in Israel, to citizens in Israel that are paying their
bills,” Erdan said. “It’s illogical and it’s immoral not to start
with the people in Gaza. In Gaza we are not obliged to supply
Currently, Israel allocates about 4.5 percent of its electricity
production to the Palestinian Authority, of which less than half –
around 160 megawatts – it allocates to Gaza, according to the
“Those are exactly the 160 megawatts you need [in Israel] when the
demands are very high,” Erdan said.
While there is a power plant in Gaza, the facility is only operating
at 30% because the Palestinian Authority asked Israel to stop
bringing in diesel and fuel oil to the strip, as Hamas was not paying
its bills properly to the PA, according to Erdan.
In response to Erdan’s suggestion, the Palestinian Energy and Natural
Resources Authority – under the leadership of Dr. Omar Kittenah –
said it “strongly condemns” Erdan´s proposal and charged that such a
decision would deprive 1.7% of Palestinians of a basic need.
“We consider these remarks a clear threat targeting the Palestinian
people and genocide against our people and their rights,” the
authority said in a statement. “We see these remarks as a
continuation of the crime against our people, which began in 2006
with the bombing of the power plant and imposing the blockade.”
Erdan’s remarks would not break the steadfastness of the
Palestinians, the authority stressed.
After hearing the Palestinian response, Erdan stressed that Israel is
doing whatever it can to continue helping them, “even when they don’t
“I really feel mercy for the people in Gaza that they don’t
understand that the money their regime is getting from around the
world – instead of being used for building infrastructure and energy,
is being used for weaponry,” he told the Post.
“We are willing to help them with everything,” Erdan said. “But what
can we do when seven years after the disengagement, instead of using
the money to develop power plants or desalination, everything is
going to be missiles.”
Erdan was not worried about how Israel’s global image would be
affected by such a decision, as “in every decision we take in Israel,
someone criticizes Israel of course,” according to the minister.
“It’s not as a punishment – we will supply them whatever we can,”
Erdan continued. “It’s not that we don’t want to supply them, it’s
that we can’t – we are out of electricity.”
Several ministers quietly agreed with Erdan’s suggestion, but said it
would best be kept separate from the summer shortage proposals, a
source told the Post.
Dr. Brenda Shaffer, an expert on energy policy and management in the
School of Political Science at the University of Haifa, said she felt
that “there are a lot of easier things to do than saying just cut off
For example, Shaffer explained, Israel could have allowed for the
development of the 30 BCM Gaza Marine natural gas field.
“We have an interest that they would be producing electricity from
natural gas instead of diesel,” she said.
In addition, Israel could reduce the operations of some of its high-
power consuming industries, like Haifa Oil Refineries, according to
Landau, meanwhile, responded at the beginning of the cabinet meeting
that his ministry is dealing with finding solutions to the shortages,
and will be focusing on that alone.
During Sunday´s cabinet meeting, the government approved Landau´s
proposals for handling the expected power shortages that he had
unveiled last week, with a few amendments from the original draft
The official shortage period in the approved version was extended
through October 31, thereby eliminating the minister’s initial
authority to lengthen the period an additional three months. The new
version of the proposal also called for an assessment of the Reading
power plant in Tel Aviv.
While Landau´s original proposal recommended a 30-megawatt increase
in solar rooftop allocations for the summer, which would need to be
installed by July 1, the approved draft extended that deadline to
August 1, and brought forward the 2014 solar rooftop quota of 35
megawatts for use now.
Environmentalists who had initially criticized Landau´s timetable as
too short and unrealistic now welcomed the adjusted provision.
"The decision is just one step in the right direction," said Eitan
Parness, CEO of the Renewable Energy Association of Israel. "The
government has accepted the demand of the green organizations and
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and has recognized the
validity of solar power as a means to tackle the expected electricity
Parness urged the Public Utility Authority and the Israel Electric
Corporation to act swiftly in order to implement the government
decision as efficiently as possible.
"In the next coming years, we will see solar power growing and
thousands of new solar roof tops and solar power plants will change
the way electricity is produced," Parness continued. "This is a small
victory in terms of megawatts, but a big one for all the promoters of
green electricity in Israel."
Whereas in 2010, Israel produced 3.2 BCM of gas of its own from Yam
Tethys and received 2.1 BCM from Egypt, in 2011 it produced 4.3 BCM
from Yam Tethys, received 0.7 BCM from Egypt and had a shortage of
1.7 BCM. In 2012, producing about 2.4 BCM from Yam Tethys, Israel is
expected to have a natural gas shortage of about 4.9 BCM, the Natural
Gas Authority reported. This summer, the country will have a reserve
of only 6.4% – or 776 megawatts – during peak electricity demand
hours, according to the authority.
Some principle stipulations of Landau’s now approved proposal include
the expansion of electricity supply, by means of diesel generators
and transportable gas turbines, as well as an ability to activate
these generators without limitations.
The proposal also suggests shifting some quantities of gas in cases
of emergency from the Essential Service Supplier – the IEC or East
Jerusalem Electric Company – to partially or fully paralyzed private
Stressing that the public must be made aware of the upcoming
shortages, the proposal suggests reducing power usage among
consumptions. Meanwhile, military bases should join the "mobile
summit" framework, which requires that mobile generators not operate
more than 100 hours per year.
Both Landau and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the
cabinet’s decision to approve the summer plans.
“The government made an important decision today, which will allow
the state to better prepare for the expected power drought this
summer,” Landau said. “Cooperation between the ministries to
implement the decision is crucial, in order to prevent blackouts.” (©
1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/14/12)
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