Israel should consider cutting its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip this summer if it finds itself experiencing power shortages, Israel's environment minister Gilad Erdan said on Sunday.
Erdan, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, outlined the proposal in a letter to ministers, who were scheduled to discuss the issue during their Sunday cabinet meeting.
"If there are power shortages in Israel this summer, the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip should be halted... It represents 4.5 percent of Israeli production," the letter said.
"Electricity production will be less than demand this summer," Erdan added, in an interview with Israeli military radio on Sunday.
"We are looking at using production methods that are more polluting and alternative energy sources like solar but we may still have to have electricity outages."
"If we are in that situation it would be absurd for Israelis to be the first ones affected while at the same time we continue to provide electricity to Gaza, while they are not paying," he said.
In a statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said Erdan's "threats... exposed the true face of the occupation."
"What is required from the Arab countries, and Egypt in particular, is the creation of an Arab, Egyptian safety net for the residents of Gaza in light of the Zionist blackmail," he added.
Israel's energy generation is heavily dependent on natural gas supplies from Egypt, which have been interrupted multiple times since the Egyptian revolution.
Attackers have frequently blown up the pipeline that supplies Israel with Egyptian gas, and Egypt in April annulled the bilateral contract governing the supply, saying the Jewish state had failed to meet its conditions.
The Gaza Strip experienced its worst electricity crisis in memory this year, as the supply of fuel smuggled from Egypt dwindled, forcing the closure of the coastal territory's sole power plant.
The crisis led to power cuts of up to 18 hours a day, but has eased somewhat after a deal between Gaza's Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank, which agreed to supply Gaza with fuel purchased from Israel.