Israeli and Palestinian officials on Monday attended the “historic” opening of a new Palestinian power station located near the West Bank city of Jenin.
The substation will allow Israel to provide 135 more megawatts of electricity to the northern West Bank, the area under Palestinian Authority control that experiences the most frequent outages, The Times of Israel reported. As the first-ever electricity substation owned and managed by the PA, it is a major step in helping Palestinians independently power the territories under their rule.
While the PA will still have to purchase power from the Israel Electric Corporation, which built the substation, it will be fully in control of its distribution. Palestinian workers trained by the IEC will also be in charge of maintaining and repairing the site.
In the past, the PA has defaulted on billions of shekels of debt to the IEC, leading it to withhold power supplies.
After signing the deal, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah; Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz; IEC Chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal; and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai turned on the Al-Jalameh Substation together.
Al-Jalameh is a town near Jenin that is closest to the substation.
Steinitz said the deal was a “win-win project” for Israel and the PA. “It’s good for Palestinians because they will get more electricity, which will be more stable and of higher quality. It’s good for Israel because…the responsibility [for Palestinian electricity] won’t fall on the shoulders of the Israeli Electric Corporation,” he observed. “If we speak together and work together, we can make advancements in the field.”
Steinitz added that the substation could “be a model” for how Israel and the PA could cooperate on other infrastructure projects, such as water supply and treatment.
Hamdallah added that the substation was “pivotal to enhance our independence so we can meet the growing needs of our people in the electricity sector.” He also expressed gratitude to Israel for “its cooperation to facilitate” the completion of the substation.
Jason Greenblatt, the White House’s special envoy for international negotiations, also welcomed the substation’s inauguration, saying that it “sets the stage for further agreement on broader electricity cooperation,” and represents “important progress” towards the administration’s goal of boosting the Palestinian economy and improving “prospects for a just, secure, and lasting peace.”
The Palestinian substation in Jenin is the first of four planned for the West Bank. Others are on the way in the Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus regions.
The PA is also currently building a power station near Jenin, which is expected to cost about $620 million and be completed by 2020. It is slated to generate 400-450 megawatts of power, about half of the amount needed for the PA’s territories.
In September 2016, Israel and the PA agreed to transfer control of the West Bank’s electrical infrastructure to the PA. The PA also agreed to begin paying back the 2 billion NIS ($560 million) debt it owes the IEC. Three quarters of that debt remain, which is to be paid out in 48 installments.