Israel in the News Oct/Nov 2000

PA electricity consumption ‘threatens Israel’s reserves’
HA’ARETZ (INTERNET EDITION)— Palestinian electricity consumption is climbing by 15–20 percent a year and could become a future time bomb threatening Israel’s limited reserves, a senior industry source said.

The source said Israel keeps reserves of some 8 percent of its production capabilities— the standard in Europe is 20–25 percent. He said Israel now supplies 600 megawatts to the Palestinian Authority, but within 5 to 7 years Palestinian comsumption will double. “Israel will have a difficult time supplying all their electricity needs—it’s having enough difficulty supplying its own needs,” he said.

Israel must make sure the Palestinians develop independent electricity production, he said. A 140-megawatt plant is soon to go online in Gaza, “but it won’t be able to make the Palestinians self-sufficient.”

The Oslo agreement does not include any separation of the Israeli and Palestinian electricity grids. Israel supplies electricity to the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

Mufti bans Jerusalem Arabs from becoming Israeli citizens
THE JERUSALEM POST—Seeking to stem the increase in the number of Jerusalem Arabs applying for Israeli citizenship, Mufti of Jerusalem Ikrima Sabri renewed a religious decree banning Palestinians in Jerusalem from becoming Israeli citizens.

The edict states that holding Israeli citizenship is prohibited by Islam, as it constitutes recognition of Israeli law and is tantamount to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

In response, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert called on Prime Minister Ehud Barak to immediately announce that Israel will automatically grant citizenship to any Arab living in East Jerusalem who applies.

Figures released by the Israeli Interior Ministry show that citizenship applications by East Jerusalem Arabs have nearly doubled over the last year. In the first half of 2000, the ministry received 183 applications, compared to 98 for the same period in 1999. However, only 13 of this year’s applications have been approved so far, Ministry spokeswoman Tova Ellinson told The Jerusalem Post.

While all 200,000 Jerusalem Arabs may apply for Israeli citizenship, only a small minority—about 10,000—do so. The rest retain their Jordanian passports but carry Israeli permanent-resident identity cards and receive social benefits such as national insurance and health coverage.

Since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, the number of Jerusalem Arabs who have become Israeli citizens has increased from 2,000 to five times that number, due to uncertainty prompted by the peace process.

During recent Camp David talks, many Jerusalem Arabs began to feel uneasy about a possible peace deal in which their villages would come under Palestinian sovereignty.

Fadal Tahbub, East Jerusalem resident and member of the Palestinian National Council, has estimated that nearly 70 percent of Jerusalem’s 200,000 Arabs would prefer to remain under Israeli sovereignty because of the economic benefits Israel offers.

Water to farmers to be cut by 50 percent
HA’ARETZ—The government wants to cut the water quota for agricultural use by 50 percent in 2001, following an already steep cut of 40 percent this year, according to an agreement reached by the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture and the Water Commission in the National Infrastructure Ministry. The proposal will be put forward for cabinet approval soon.

The water cut will be implemented even if the coming winter season (2000–2001) yields average or above-average rainfall. In the event of a dry winter, the cut could reach 75 percent of the normal quota.

Yossi Yishai, the Agriculture Ministry’s director-general, said the ministry will prepare an estimate of the losses and damage that will accrue to agriculture and the food-processing industry by the cut. Yishai predicted that loss of income and direct losses from dried up orchards, hothouses, and fields would total NIS 2 billion (U.S. $500 million). Farmers are still to receive NIS 160 million (U.S. $40 million) for the damage they sustained as a result of the water cut in 2000.

Some 10,000 agricultural sector workers, both self-employed and salaried, will lose their jobs under a 50 percent water cut, says the ministry. Industries that are directly and indirectly connected to agriculture will also be badly hit, in contrast to the situation in previous water cuts.

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