Cabinet Decision Sparks Protest

There were protests and demonstrations by workers at the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDEC) Monday following the Cabinet’s decision Sunday to restrict JDEC’s operations exclusively to Arab consumers.

The Cabinet approved, by a vote of 15-5, the recommendation of Energy Minister Moshe Shahal to reduce the scope of the debt-ridden JDEC’s operations so that the company would cease serving the new Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem and West Bank Jewish settlements.

These will now receive their electricity directly from the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), the government-owned Israeli power monopoly The JDEC will confine itself to supplying Arab sections of Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Cabinet rejected an alternative proposal that the JDEC be closed down altogether.

EFFECT OF THE CABINET DECISION

The company will be required to dismiss some 350 of its staff of more than 500. It will be required to purchase all of its electricity from the IEC. Hitherto it has generated five percent of its electricity, and purchased 95 percent from the IEC. The five percent capacity will henceforth be used in emergencies only.

The JDEC is the largest corporation in the administered areas, and its staff is widely reputed to include politically radical elements among its leadership. The company’s fate, therefore, has long been seen as a political as well as economic problem.

The company’s chairman, Hanna Nasser, said he deplored the Cabinet’s decision to reduce the JDEC’s concession, but he did not reject the entire plan. Apparently he hopes for concomitant government aid to help bail the company out of its financial troubles.

Jewish residents of East Jerusalem and the settlements were generally pleased at the Cabinet’s decision, because JDEC’s antiquated equipment has often broken down in the past, causing lengthy power lapses.

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