Blackout Waiting to Happen

The Ashkelon Power Plant

The Ashkelon Power Plant

It was almost poetic justice – a rocket which Hamas fired at Israel Sunday night knocked out a high-voltage line that supplies electricity to some 70,000 Gazans. This was a blackout waiting to happen. Literally biting the hand that feeds it, Hamas persistently aims at the very Ashkelon power plant upon which Gaza depends for its electricity. Israel has refrained from switching the power off lest it incur censure from abroad.

Neither Gaza nor the Ramallah half of the Palestinian Authority pays for the power consumed. Gaza alone, it’s estimated, owes the Israel Electric Corporation NIS 220m (out of the staggering NIS1.5bil unpaid Palestinian debts).

The downed electricity line is one of a dozen high-tension lines with 120 megawatts per hour transmission capacity. Its loss means that the entire area between Khan Younis and Deir el-Balah has been plunged into darkness.

The damage is reparable but there’s no quick fix. In the best of times this job could take a long time. As things stand, with more rockets flying out of Gaza, no IEC employees would be willing to risk life and limb and expose themselves to Gazan predations just in order to restore electricity to Gazans. Moreover, no one asks them to.

The IEC states that attempts to mend the severed line wouldn’t be made before full calm is restored and workers could assume they were operating in uncompromised safety. This has received unstinting government backing. Indeed, it’s reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom had both personally instructed IEC chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal to abstain from endangering the lives of IEC personnel for the Gazans’ sake.

Israel’s electricity supplies to Gaza are part of a larger anomaly.

Despite the 2005 Disengagement, Israel hasn’t been able to fully disengage from Gaza. And thus while Hamas lobs rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians in nearly every corner of the country, Israel continues to supply the Strip not only with electricity but also water, foodstuffs, medications and more. This continues during spates of fighting because Israel seeks to deflect PR damage and legal travails.

The IEC has gone so far as to petition the High Court of Justice last month to either allow it to disobey government directives to continue supplying electricity to Gaza or to order the government to deduct the sums owed the IEC from tax money collected by Israel for the PA.

The alternative would be to pass on the costs to ordinary Israelis who are already lumbered down with inordinately high bills. The upshot would be that Israeli households would end up paying for the electricity which Gazans inter alia use to manufacture the rockets with which they threaten the lives of the very same Israelis who pick up their tab. The current is likewise used to dig and maintain tunnels through which much of Hamas’s deadly arsenal is smuggled and through which incursions against Israelis are also plotted.

Surely the disingenuous humanist outcry anticipated in case of a power cut from the Israeli side cannot arise when Gazans cause their own comeuppance. It would be too much even for skewed foreign opinion molders and political pontificators to expect Israeli technicians to put their lives on the line for the sake of their would-be killers.  It shouldn’t be too much to presume that there’s a limit to how unreasonable the international community can be.

But the just deserts which Hamas rocket launchers brought on their own people should also light the way for future Israeli policy.

If Israel is loath to outright pull the plug on Gazan electricity supplies from Israel, it can at least a priori publish a price list for Gazan infractions of whatever future accommodation is reached. Whenever any projectile is fired from Gaza after the truce, it should automatically mean a blackout for given periods, depending on the severity of the aggression. Thus both Gaza and world opinion would be apprised in advance of the consequences of any attacks from Gaza. Those who wish to keep Gaza supplied, should encourage it to cease fire.

14 thoughts on “Blackout Waiting to Happen

  1. Sarah:

    Given the current fighting and rockets flying the repairs could take several years, with a up front payment from Abbas, or better yet demand that the EU pre pay for the repairs!

  2. Israel has been to kind to the people of Gaza. They send electricity, food, medicine and water while receiving rockets in return. As far as the people of Gaza are concerned these supplies are delivered by Hamas and not Israel. As long as the rockets fly there should be no shipments into Gaza, courtesy of Hamas

  3. I guess Israel supplies essentials to those sworn to its destruction because the innocent amongst them (children for example) would suffer otherwise. It explains the difference between the Jews and the rest of mankind let alone the Arabs.

  4. How ironic that this electricity outage situation occurred precisely when it did.
    Just yesterday after reading a news story on Reuters titled:
    “Israel holds off on escalating Gaza barrage; West wants truce”, I posted a comment suggesting that depriving Gaza of some of their Israeli supplied electricity for every rocket fired into Israel might be preferable and far more effective in stopping the rocket attacks, to much of the present bombing being done which unfortunately often leads to the deaths of children.
    The idea that Israel would be censured for depriving Gaza of electricity in proportion to Gaza’s rocket attacks makes little sense since it is surely far more humane to withhold predetermined amounts of electricity than to turn entire houses and streets into piles of smoldering ash and rubble due to the high likelihood of unintended collateral damage.
    More to the point, rationing electricity to Gaza would likely bring a cessation of the indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel far sooner than the present bombing campaign.
    My comment posted under “Reuters1945″ on Reuters News.
    “Reuters1945″ wrote:
    “Although Israel pulled out all soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, thus ending its physical “occupation”, Gazans still depend on Israel for their electricity, water, communication networks and even the currency. And importantly, much of Gaza’s food staples.
    I have often wondered if anyone in a decision making capacity in the Israeli government has considered the fact that there are many ways to fight a war that do not require bullets and/or bombs and the always tragic spilling of blood.
    During the Six Day war of 1967, Israel was facing massive Arab armies with thousands of tanks and hundreds of thousands of Arab soldiers, massed upon Israel’s borders, approaching from literally every direction.
    The Arab leaders boisterously boasted how the world would soon witness a blood bath of Biblical proportions as the Arabs quickly pushed the Jews into the sea.
    The bone chilling statements/quotes of these Arab leaders were broadcast throughout the Arab world and are thus readily easily researched and documented should anyone care to read them.
    Israel under the threat of imminent existential destruction was thus forced to attack first, or be wiped out.
    Those commentators who never tire of claiming that Israel attacked first in the Six Day war, of course never mention these facts.
    But once the tide of war turned in Israel’s favor, things rapidly reached a point where the IDF had over 100,000 Egyptian troops totally surrounded in the Sinai desert.
    However, instead of the Israeli army slaughtering those troops who had come to slaughter them, the IDF simply cut off their supplies of fresh water. The Egyptians capitulated in short order, surrendered all their weapons and were escorted back to the Suez Canal where they were permitted to board boats and return back to Egypt.
    Since the people of Gaza, depend on Israel for electricity, water, communication networks and much of their food, it puzzles me that no one to my knowledge has suggested that for every day a rocket is fired into Israel, some major staple which is supplied to Gaza by Israel will/should be withheld for one day.
    This could begin with withholding some or all of the electricity that Israel furnishes to Gaza for 24 to 48 hours. Lights would go off, no current to charge their cell phones or keep their refrigerators running or run the gas pumps to fill their cars.
    Gaza hospitals of course, like all hospitals have emergency generators so this would not be a life-threatening issue.
    I suspect that if for every rocket fired the people of Gaza suffered some serious inconvenience to their daily lives, they would very soon start demanding of the leaders of Hamas that all the futile firing of rockets into Israel cease.
    There would be no need to fly countless fighter jet missions over Gaza and threaten the invasion of tens of thousands of Israeli troops and tanks.
    A little quality of life inconvenience and/or non lethal pain would make it unnecessary to kill Hamas leaders and risk tragic undesirable collateral damage to the homes and the lives of the innocent.
    Electric service to Gaza from Israel could be curtailed at the flip of a switch for an hour, a day or a week.
    Is there some reason this has not been tried ?
    Bombing never succeeds 100 % because there will always be people who steadfastly believe that no incoming bomb has their name and address written on its side. And of course there are many that see death as some sort of first class ticket to “Paradise”.
    But when all the lights, televisions and radios stop working in entire vast neighborhoods in Gaza, those who control Hamas and the rocket launching pads will get the message fairly quickly that the people of Gaza want and demand that the rocket attacks against Israel cease.
    It is surely worth a try to save innocent lives- eventually on both sides.
    Sometimes it is possible to achieve one’s objectives by smarter thinking instead of more and more violent actions.
    A message to all sides in this ongoing Middle East tragedy that has already gone on for far too long.”

  5. The narrative that Sarah has supplied here, plus the above comments should have been aired
    by the Netanyahu when he was invited to appear on CBS to address these issues, instead of borrowing the Churchilian prose about “the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning”, which sounded pretty hollow to me.
    As things stand, Hamas is again pulling out a public relations victory, by inviting the comparison
    between Gazan vs. Israeli dead, which is daily reported in the Western media. This too
    should have received comment from the prime minister. He should have said that 1) Hamas
    is responsible for the civilian deaths by imbedding their rockets in residential neighborhoods, and
    2) that the low toll of Israeli deaths is not due to lack of trying by Hamas. The truth still is that
    if the Palestinians would lay down their arms, they would have land and peace. Whereas if
    the Israelis laid down theirs, they would face extermination. Why isn’t this clear to everybody ?

  6. Sorry to disagree with your closing statement, “Those who wish to keep Gaza supplied, should encourage it to cease fire.”
    Truce or ceasefire is now not good enough.
    Just as with Japan (in WW2) Israel should now demand ‘total and utter surrender, coupled with complete disarmament.’
    Harry Orenstein

  7. The term “disingenuous humanist outcry” is such an accurate summation of the attitudes of international officials towards Israel. The very fact that Israel continues to supply Gaza with electricity and this fact (among others, of course) never makes it into mainstream coverage in order to provide the whole picture with balance and accuracy is mind-boggling. However, as to the idea that there is a limit to how unreasonable the international community can be, that even they will not expect Israeli technicians to put their lives on the line to supply their would-be killers with electricity, I am not so sure. International officialdom is so entrenched in its skewed and selective narrative that I will be shocked if pressure is not put in Israel to put its citizens in mortal peril to supply the people trying to kill them, with a refusal to do so being portrayed as further evidence of Israeli oppression; after all, this demand would only be springing from the same well of the disingenuous humanism that rules all official discussions and molds all opinions of those everymen who accept that portrayal without bothering to look deeper – sadly, these appear to be the majority.

  8. Terrific, now let’s cease with the other absolute absurdity……continuing to supply our mortal enemies with their fuel.
    Can you cay “Ahm dafuk”?

  9. I don’t think Hamas can be conditioned by temporarily stopping supply of electricity (from Israel to Gaza) when rockets fly from Gaza into Israel. Hamas operatives are not like Pavlov’s dogs, rather, they glorify suffering and death (their own and that of their victims) and foolishly anticipate rewards in the afterlife. While a few of their leaders cynically enjoy the spoils of war, purchased at the expense of lives of Israelis and Gazans.
    The provision of electricity (and other supplies) to terrorists, gives aid and comfort to the enemy at a time of war. Treason or mere insanity, surely this one-sided altruism is unprecedented in world history.
    If Israelis will not be for their own interest, how can they expect others to defend that interest?
    This lack of self-interest indicates a lack of confidence in one’s own moral position, or at least gives that impression. Israel is strong enough to withstand US counter-measures, and moral enough to merit that strength.
    There is plenty of land in Sinai, out of rocket range, where Gazans could receive foreign aid.

  10. Amazing how the world mildly rebukes Russia for switching off gas for monetary and political reasons. Yet when it comes to Israel and Gaza – and where israeli life is taken and threatened – God forbid the Israelis should consider a cur off of electricity as a legitimate retaliatory counter measure. One might even argue that by refraining from a cut off the Israeli government is indirectly culpable for the death of its own citizens.

  11. Supplying Gaza with electricity, water, and food, is absolute insanity. The Oslo Interim agreement states that “…subsequent to Israeli withdrawal, Israel will continue to be responsible for external security, and for internal security….” But it says nothing about a situation where terrorists are firing rockets into Israel, from anywhere. Israel supplies Gaza with 120 Megawatts of electricity.100 Megawatts is enough to supply approximately 79,000 homes. If Gaza’s houses average 8 occupants each, that’s easily enough to supply all of Gaza city.(Based on a population figure of 515,556, in Wikipedia) An item in another Israeli publication told readers that a truck driver blocked a road into Gaza, with his truck, because a convoy of 170 trucks, some carrying Coca-Cola(!) was entering Gaza city. He did the right thing.
    Why should hard-working Israelis have to pay to get blown up? No other country does this. Supplying Gaza with electricity, water, and food has to stop, until Hamas surrenders, and at least half of their debts to Israel are repaid. Sarah, you are right on, yet again.

  12. Pingback: War Report | Jewgle Perth

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