“Rawabi” in Arabic means “Hills”. It is also the name of the first planned Palestinian city currently being built in the West Bank. Set in a biblical landscape, amid stony hills and valleys where sheep and goats graze under ancient olive trees, Rawabi is an urban-planner’s dream come true. Planned to consist of 10,000 homes in six neighborhoods with a population of 40,000, Rawabi will include cinemas, shopping malls, schools, landscaped walkways, office blocks, a conference center, restaurants and cafes.
Rawabi is a huge project in Palestinian terms. The total cost of the development, mostly funded by the Qatari company LDR and Palestinian multimillionaire Bashar al-Masri, is estimated at US$850 million. The project, the largest private sector project ever carried out by Palestinians, will create between 8,000 to 10,000 jobs during the construction phase, and after completion, Rawabi’s businesses will generate between 3,000 and 5,000 permanent jobs.
But more than anything, Rawabi represents hope. A beacon of light in an otherwise dark sea. Palestinians can finally show off a large scale and modern project of their own. The thousands of young families that have already purchased an apartment in Rawabi, can actually live a life that their ancestors barely dared to dream about, and on a clear day – see Tel-Aviv’s skyline without an ounce of jealousy and resentment.
Refugee camps out, five-room condos in. Well, almost.
There is a slight holdup. This week, al-Masri will announce he is freezing the project. Although he completed the first 600 apartments in March, he can’t hand over the keys to the new owners since Israel is not allowing him to connect the city to water.
A weekend interview with al-Masri in Yedioth Aharonoth revealed that al-Masri will be forced to stop the building, fire 500 workers this month and another 1000 by the end of the year.
“I know I won’t make a profit from this project, but there’s a limit to how much I can lose. I’m a business man…we went by the book and did everything Israel asked us to…In March they told us that the approval was on the way, the only thing that is missing is the approval of Israeli government officials. We’re still waiting.”
The article revealed that there are two reasons Israel is not approving the water connection: a) as a punishment for the Palestinian Authority for refusing to connect Israeli settlements to a water pipe passing through its territory, and b) as a punishment for the unity government between Fatah and Hamas.
Understanding that this case is sensitive, the chairman of the Israeli water consortium “Mekorot” gave his special approval to connect Rawabi to a temporary water pipe passing through the settlement of Ateret. Yet, as the decision is ultimately of political nature, the approval was not his to give, and the Israeli government has still not finished punishing.
Yep. You got it right. The already sizzling hot situation in the West Bank is about to receive a nice dose of fuel in the form of thousands of Palestinians without a job or home, and all because Israel seeks to punish the very same unity government it is now negotiating with, in one shape or another, in Cairo.
And so, in crazy circumstances that can only transpire in the Middle East, Israel seeks to reach an agreement between Abu Mazen and Hamas in Gaza on the one hand, while trying to fight the very same agreement in the West Bank on the other.
But, hey I’m not worried. Because if the war in Gaza taught us anything it is that what Israel avoids doing under comfortable circumstances, it eventually does under pressure.
And so, just like in Gaza – where Israel is about to give what it could have given before sixty-four IDF soldiers and two thousand Palestinians lost their lives, it will also concede in the West Bank. Rawabi will be connected to water, but only after word of this fiasco reaches the world, foreign governments intervenes, and threats of boycotts ensue.
It really is unbelievable how arrogant we can be, how stupid.