Whose fault is it?

A colleague called me today as he was leaving Erez “terminal”, just coming out of Gaza after two days there.

The situation of the people who don’t have any electricity, or any fuel, is terrible, he said.

He asked, “Whose fault do you think it is”?

[He said he is leaning toward blaming Hamas…]

But, there is enough blame to go around…

Where to start?

The European Union was paying for the special industrial diesel fuel used to run the Gaza Power Plant once it was repaired in November 2006 [precision Israeli Air Force bombing took out each of the four generators/turbines, one by one, in late June 2006, in response to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, and the EU paid for repairs that were done through Egypt].

The way it worked is important to understanding the situation: Gaza would tell the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah how much fuel it needed. Ramallah would order the fuel from an Israeli fuel company [Dor Alon] with whom Ramallah had concluded a contract. Fuel transfer facilities were constructed at Nahal Oz — Dor Alon paid for the installation on the Israeli side of the facility, and the PA paid for the installation on the Gaza side. Israeli tankers came one by one to offload their fuel cargoes into underground pipes which transferred the fuel into Gaza where it was loaded into Palestinian tanker trucks for delivery around the Gaza Strip.

VAT taxes paid on these fuel purchases by the PA were returned by Israel to the PA in Ramallah.

These arrangements continued after the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian preventive security services in mid-June 2007.

(1) Because Hamas was in power there, Israel’s military was authorized to implement tightening sanctions against Gaza, starting in late October 2007. These military sanctions were designed to cut the fuel deliveries to Gaza by about 15% each month. Gaza’s Power Plant experienced shut-downs from January, due to Israeli-military-mandated cuts in fuel delivered to Gaza.

(2) About four years later [at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011], there was a switch of responsibilities that was never fully explained, in which the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority took over from the EU the payment for the fuel, in exchange for the EU paying for salaries and pensions… There soon arose disputes over payments. Ramallah said that Gaza was not remitting enough in payments for electric bills, so they cut down on the fuel they ordered and paid for. More shut-downs in Gaza’s Power Plant ensued. VAT

(3) Gaza decided to stop going along with this arrangement, and its dependency on Ramallah’s good will, and turned instead to taking fuel for the Gaza Power Plant smuggled in via the tunnels under the border with Rafah. At around the same time, a clever tweak — invented by Gaza Power Plant Engineer Dirar Abu Sisi [later kidapped in Ukraine, where he was trying to emigrate with his Ukranian wife and their children, and brought to Israel, where he is still in jail] — allowed the Gaza Power Plant to use normal diesel fuel to operate. There were considerable cost savings. Taxes for the import of fuel went to Hamas.

(4) Israel gradually closes all cargo transport into Gaza via all crossings except Kerem Shalom — where Israeli customs officials operate. This move was opposed by the PA. Israel delayed the move, but eventually did it.

(5) Egypt, under pressure, decides to reduce the fuel transfers through the tunnels.

(6) Hamas hopes to persuade Egypt to deliver fuel through Rafah crossing — preferably via tankers crossing into Gaza — though there is no provision for cargo transfer via Rafah in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. Israel prefers fuel to come from Egypt via Kerem Shalom. There are negotiations and talks and more talks. Gaza’s Power Plant shuts down three times in recent weeks due to fuel shortage — including after an exceptional one-time transfer last Friday of 450,000 liters of fuel bought from Israel and paid by the PA. This quantity of fuel lasted for just over a day, and the Gaza Power Plant shut down again on Sunday.

During these talks and negotiations, it was reported here that “The [Gaza] cabinet also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, saying it has instructed the European Union to stop funding the power station in Gaza for political reasons. The Gaza government said it had turned to Egypt to relieve the current fuel crisis and thanked Cairo for its efforts, adding that it was also in contact with Qatar, Algeria and Turkey to ease shortages”.

An equivalent or greater amount of energy was put into mutual recriminations. Haaretz reported on 20 March here that Iran paid Hamas to block a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas [which might have eased the fuel crisis]:

    Hamas spokesman Ahmed Assaf said: “We have information that Iran paid tens of millions of dollars to Zahar and Haniyeh in their visits to Iran”. [He was referring to Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar who visited Tehran last week and Ismail Haniyeh who was there in February. Assaf was responding to a comment by Zahar that Palestinian political reconciliation “is in the freezer now”, despite a unity deal signed last month.
    “Reconciliation is in the freezer because Zahar was the one who put it there and he got the price from Iran,” Assaf told Reuters. “Zahar, Haniyeh and Hamas’s Gaza leadership were paid by Iran to freeze reconciliation.”
    Hamas rejected the charges. “The Fatah government did not implement any of their obligations (under the unity deal) and they prefer American money to nationalist agreements,” spokesman Taher al-Nono said.

    “Iran has an interest in the division continuing. Iran realizes the importance of the Palestinian cause from the religious, political and geographic status and, therefore, it wants to control it,” Assaf said.
    If unity was restored and the Palestine Liberation Organization or any legitimate leadership ruled Gaza, Iran would lose its influence, he said.

(7) Emergency talks and negotiations ensue on Monday. On Tuesday, there is an announcement in Cairo of a deal with Egypt, made by the Gaza head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Energy Authority. But, this deal involves the transfer of Egyptian gas through Rafah to Gaza [not fuel]. This deal is reported by Ma’an News Agency, here.

Here are comments I Tweeted [@marianhouk] yesterday on this announced deal:

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gaza Power Plant, constructed to run either on indust. diesel or gas, will now be converted to use gas [provided initially by Egypt].

27 Mar @Marianhouk
The World Bank recommended in 2007 that the Gaza Power Plant switching to using gas as fuel, ultimately cheaper then indust. diesel

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gas will come from Egypt [initially] by terms of agreement signed today in Cairo by Gaza rep of PA Energy Authority – http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=471644

27 Mar @Marianhouk
How fast can this happen? “technicians in Gaza will prepare to install a 30-km pipeline from Rafah to the power plant in Gaza City” via Maan

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gas cld come to Gaza Power Plant from Palestinian Gaza Marine undersea gas fields in Med, if reconciliation [or if offshore island built]

27 Mar @Marianhouk
“Egy technicians have been instructed 2 conduct geograph surveys 2 find best route for pipelines 2 transport gas from Sheikh Zweid 2 Rafah”

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gaza rep of PA Energy Authority in Ramallah in Cairo: “the new agreement will increase the plant’s capacity from 40 to 180 Megawatts”. When?

27 Mar @Marianhouk
However, vulnerability of Sinai pipelines will be an issue in new decision signed today to supply Egyptian gas to fuel Gaza Power Plant…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *