A political battle to install a water pipeline for the first planned Palestinian city of Rawabi is now over, with Palestinian American entrepeneur finally able to reach his goal of establishing a beautiful city in area A of the West Bank.

Smadar Peri
Published: 03.04.15

Bashar al-Masri, a Palestinian American entrepreneur, has finally followed-through with his vision to fully plan a Palestinian city from its initiation, in the city of Rawabi – located in area A in the West Bank.

Seven years after announcing his plan to build the first Palestinian planned city, five years after gathering enough investments from princesses in Qatar and hundreds of workers dug its foundations and two years after thousands of apartments were sold on the Palestinian hill that overlooks Ramallah, al-Masri’s dream finally came true.

“I’m satisfied,” al-Masri said in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, “and I’m not crying over the political and bureaucratic milk that was spilled during the long journey.”

With the declaration of the development of the first Palestinian planned city, al-Masri was the subject of much criticism from both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians blamed al-Masri for “normalization” when they found out he was purchasing pavement from an Israeli company, Akerstein, and materials such as electrical equipment from Israel.

On the Israeli side, right-wing members claimed he was “invading” Israeli territory and that Rawabi would be used as a base for terrorists.

But ultimately, against all odds, al-Masri was able to see his vision through.

Last Thursday, al-Masri was notified by Israeli media that Israel would be lifting its long held opposition and would approve the transfer of a water pipe to Rawabi. In doing so, Israel has lifted the last block on the way to populating the city.

“I immediately called Yoav (coordinator of government activities in the territories) and he said to me: ‘Mabrouk, you have water,’” said al-Masri.

“I ask if all the opposition was lifted from the Israeli ministers and he said: ‘This is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision and no one can object it any longer.’”

The US government and the leaders of US Jewish organizations, who have visited Rawabi in the past, blessed Netanyahu’s decision to lift the ban against the water pipe that delayed the populating of the city.

“We are now beginning to set up the pipe and the first group of residents will begin to settle there in May,” said al-Masri. “There is still a lot of work to be done in the field. Because of the political and economic situation in the territories, it does not seem fit to us to carry out a celebration for the groundbreaking of the city. In the middle of May will carry out a special event, and whoever wants to come is invited – including Israelis.

In the first phase, 639 Palestinian families who bought apartments as part of the project will move in – they received apology letters for the delays which were caused by problems with the road leading to the city, political opposition from the Israeli side and problems dealing with the water pipe.

“I’m really happy that everything is already behind me,” said al-Masri. “I certainly invited Israelis to visit Rawabi to see how a Palestinian city is built and how high-level housing is offered. We also deserve to live in a beautiful city like the cities I’ve seen in Israel, no?”

Palestinian city plan to move forward after Israel agrees to water deal – YNET

State-of-the-art Palestinian city’s development stuck amid conflict over connection to water, however its developer now says Israel has agreed to connect new city to grid, despite past conflict with settlers.

AP, Ynet
Published: 03.01.15

The builder of the first planned Palestinian city in the West Bank says Israel has agreed to connect Rawabi to its water grid, ending months of costly delays.

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Rawabi, a state-of-the-art city, is to have 6,000 apartments, a mall and an amphitheater. It is the West Bank’s largest private investment project, totaling more than $1 billion, and is seen as a symbol of Palestinian state building.

Developer Bashar Masri said Sunday that the wrangling over the water had put off potential buyers and forced him to slow construction. Masri says he now hopes to hand over 650 apartments by early summer.

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Israel has said it has an interest in seeing Rawabi being built, but has caused repeated delays, prompting intervention by senior Western officials in the city’s behalf.

Nahum Barnea, Ynet’s print publication senior correspondent, reported two weeks ago that the first stage of the project was completed last May. The buyers were supposed to receive the keys, but the keys were not delivered because the construction company couldn’t house the buyers because there was no water flowing because Israel refused to connect them to the joint pipe.

Israel refused to connect them because its government is involved in a conflict with the Palestinian Authority.

According to Barena, each side in this conflict has principles: The PA won’t sign on water supply to the settlements; the Israeli government won’t approve water for the Palestinians as long as the PA won’t sign.

In the meantime, the city’s construction work has been halted. The marketing has been stopped too. The project, which was partly funded by Qatari money and partly by the buyers’ money, is stuck.

Barnea reported that Major-General Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, has made a huge effort in recent month to push the problem off the agenda. He used his connections in the PA to pave the way to a compromise. When he realized salvation will not come from there, he convinced Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to support a one-sided connection of the city. That’s how quite a few settlements were connected to a water supply system.

Ya’alon mulled over the issue quite a lot, Barnea claimed, adding that the defense minister eventually decided that the pipe should be connected. According to rumors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also in favor of connecting the pipe. He realizes that Rawabi is a ticking bomb, both from the PR and legal aspects.

Until the matter reached Silvan Shalom’s desk. Shalom is the minister of energy and water. When it comes to the West Bank area, the authority belongs to the Central Command chief, and in fact to the defense minister. The defense minister is in charge of the pipe, but the water minister is in charge of the water. Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, will not supply water without the Water Authority’s approval, and the Water Authority will not give the approval if the water minister refuses.

The upper middle class Palestinian families who bought apartments in Rawabi say they have been informed by the project’s managers that work still remains on connections to the water and road networks, and the first residents are expected to move in at the beginning of 2015.

The prices paid for the apartments range from $65,000 to $110,000 – far above average in the Palestinian market but still less than in Israel. Purchasers include a high percentage of singles, and many also bought apartments there as an investment. To date, Rawabi is considered the largest and most important project in the Palestinian Authority.

Some 6,000 families are ultimately expected to live in Rawabi; therefore continuing to populate the city will requires a far larger supply of water. As such, there is a need for a water pipeline that would partially pass through Area C of the West Bank – which is under Israeli control. This plan is opposed by the settlers.

Connecting Rawabi to the water network has been a bone of contention between Israeli and Palestinian representatives on the Joint Water Committee, which has not met in a long time due to disputes between the two sides.

Nahum Barnea and Danny Rubinstein contributed to this report