The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet on Sunday decided to reduce the supply of electricity Israel provides the Gaza Strip.
During the contentious meeting about the current electricity crisis in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave, cabinet ministers approved the IDF's recommendation to accept Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' request to cut Gaza's power supply.
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz locked horns over Mordechai's recommendation to cut the power supply to Gaza by more than 25%.
Israel supplies only 30% of Gaza's power needs or some 125 megawatts, for which the PA has been paying 40 million shekels ($11.3 million) a month. Recently, however, the PA said it was only prepared to pay some NIS 20-25 million ($7 million) a month for electricity to Gaza, marking a 35% decrease in the Strip's power supply.
A furious Steinitz accused Mordechai of taking orders from the PA president.
"Yes," Mordechai retorted, "I really salute him. This is such nonsense. This is the decision of all the defense agencies, which met with [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], and the fact is that he accepted their position."
Gaza will now likely be reduced from six hours of electricity per day to between two and four hours a day.
Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova said, "Preventing the Hamas government from receiving electricity is a tough measure that will undoubtedly hurt the civilian population, but with that it is also necessary. … This measure needs to be part of an organized policy whose goal is to bring an end to Hamas' rule in Gaza."
Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul, meanwhile, decried the "awful and inhumane decision by the Palestinian Authority and Israeli government," saying it was "regrettable that the Netanyahu government chooses to strengthen the PA only when it means hurting the lives of the residents of Gaza."
On May 27, United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned the Security Council that a power struggle between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions had exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
"The Palestinian Authority, Hamas … and Israel, all have obligations for the welfare of Gaza's residents and must live up to their responsibilities to address the crisis and overcome this political impasse," Mladenov said.
In an interview with BBC Arabic two days prior to Mladenov's warning, Mordechai said: "Israel is currently the only one supplying the Gaza Strip with electricity. Unfortunately, Hamas takes about 100 million shekels [$28 million] from the taxes paid by impoverished Gazans every month, but that money doesn't reach the Palestinian Authority. The reason for this is that Hamas prefers to use that money for its tunnels. Israel is the only one supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip. This means Gaza is entirely dependent on Israel's electricity sector."