High Court Issues Temporary Injunction Barring Government from Taking over Arab-owned Firm

The Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction today barring the government from taking over the Arab-owned East Jerusalem Electric Co. The injunction will be in force pending the outcome of legal action initiated by the company’s directors to prevent the take-over.

The utility, headquartered in East Jerusalem, provides power there and on the West Bank. It has long been accused of inefficiency because of the obsolescence of its equipment and the fact that it continues to bum oil at a time when Israel is shifting to coal-burning power plants.

The government’s case, however, rests on Clause 39 of the original concession which, according to its attorney, Yoram Bor-Sella, allows the government to assume control of the plant at any time without stating a reason. The original concession was signed in 1914 when Palestine was still under Ottoman rule. It was adopted successively by the British Mandate, the Jordanian authorities and the Israeli government.

Shlomo Tussia-Cohen, attorney for the company, claimed it was now operating efficiently. He admitted that most of its current was not produced in its own plant but purchased from the Israel Electric Corp. He said the latter does not limit its supplies to the Arab company and there was no reason why the situation should not continue. He stressed that the company is improving its service to Arab and Jewish customers alike and is seeking to import new generators.

Anwar Nusseibeh, a former Jordanian Foreign Minister who is chairman of the utility’s board of directors, said he was pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling today. “I have been trained in the legal tradition. I have tremendous faith the integrity and the essential dignity of the legal tradition,” he said.

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