Rawabi’s dried-up pipe could land Israel in deep water – YNET

Op-ed: There are quite a few ways to explain to the world why uninvolved people were killed in Gaza or why Jews are allowed to settle in an occupied territory; but there is no way to explain why Israel is preventing a Palestinian city from receiving water.

Published: 02.17.15

In a few weeks’ time, we’ll sit around the Seder table and recount the Exodus from Egypt, and the more the merrier.

We will recount how Moses went to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and called on him: Let my people go. But God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh refused. God hit Egypt with nine horrible plagues, and each time the frightened king accepted the demand, and then, when the punishment was called off, he went back on his word and refused. He only let them go after the 10th plague, death of firstborn.

And now let’s put the Bible stories aside and focus on settling the country. North of Ramallah, near the Ateret settlement, a city is being built. Its name is Rawabi. The diligent reader likely remembers press reports about the progress in the city’s construction, newspaper reports which stretched over two pages and long television and radio reports.

I wrote about it quite a lot myself. I thought that the project marked the Palestinians’ shift from sanctifying terror to normalization, and the huge importance of this move for the State of Israel requires no explanation.

I traveled there. I was impressed by the multi-story buildings being constructed in Area A, by the quality of the urban planning which followed in the footsteps of the Israeli city of Modiin, by the enviable prices starting at $80,000 for a four-room apartment, by the quality of construction, by the marketing method. I interviewed the entrepreneur, Bashar al-Masri, who insisted on buying the materials for his project from Israel of all places, despite the Palestinian Authority’s boycott declarations.

The first stage of the project was completed last May. The buyers were supposed to receive the keys. The keys were not delivered. The construction company couldn’t house the buyers because there was no water flowing out of the taps in their apartments. The water didn’t flow 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.

Each side in this conflict has principles: The PA won’t sign on water supply to the settlements; our 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. It will soon reach the courts.

The damage suffered by the investors is unfortunate, but what we should be interested in is the damage to the State of Israel. There are quite a few ways to explain to the world why uninvolved people were killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. There are even ways to explain why Israel insists on letting Jews settle in an occupied territory. There is no way to explain why Israel is preventing a Palestinian city from receiving water. All the more so when Rawabi is the complete opposite of Hamas’ Gaza: It’s a bourgeois, well kept, demilitarized island, free of politics. It’s the model of peace according to the West’s perception.

The PA, which is looking for issues to use in the “diplomatic intifada” it is waging against Israel, has enthusiastically jumped on Rawabi: In this case, water is thicker than blood. And there are already colleges in the United States and Europe in which anti-Israel activists are going on about the city which was not joined together, the Palestinian thirst and the Israeli pharaoh. The dried up pipe will serve as an excellent propaganda tool.

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. It’s possible that he thought about the primary elections, and about how Likud members in the hardcore settlements would vote. He 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.

We have a prime minister who can launch a war on Iran or fire the Israel Prize for Literature’s panel of judges, but doesn’t know how to turn on the tap to Rawabi. Or perhaps he does know, but doesn’t want to do it while fighting with Naftali Bennett and Baruch Marzel over the right-wing votes. And we have a defense minister with good intentions who is incapable of acting.

We survived Pharaoh, Israeli singer-songwriter Meir Ariel sang. We’ll survive this too.

Ya’alon pushes for water hookup in order to open new Palestinian city Rawabi – JERUSALEM POST

Rawabi, which is located on a Samaria hilltop between Ramallah and Nablus, is the first planned Palestinian city in the West Bank that offers affordable modern homes.

To help the new Palestinian city of Rawabi open its doors to its first residents, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) has ordered water to be hooked up to its large apartment buildings.

Rawabi, which is located on a Samarian hilltop between Ramallah and Nablus, is the first planned Palestinian city in the West Bank. It offers affordable modern homes.

Although the first batch of apartment buildings is ready, hundreds of new homeowners have been unable to move in because the city lacks water.

Rawabi, along with other Israeli and Palestinian projects, has been frozen, pending approval from the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee (JWC), which has not met for the last five years.

Ya’alon, along with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, decided to circumvent the JWC and ordered Israel’s Water Authority to provide water to Rawabi and a number of other projects, including for Israelis.

Infrastructure Minister Silvan Shalom, whose office has oversight over the Water Authority, has refused to heed Ya’alon and Mordechai’s demand. Silvan’s office said on Thursday that, according to a 1995 Interim Agreement under the Oslo Accords, water and sewage projects for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank must be approved by the JWC.

“To our sorrow, since 2010, the Palestinians have refused to convene the committee.

We’d be happy if the Palestinians would sit in the committee, which could then debate projects from both sides,” Silvan’s office said.

His spokesman added that, once the Palestinians return to the committee, a water hookup for Rawabi could likely be approved fairly quickly.

Rawabi is located in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which is under the civil control of the Palestinian Authority. It abuts Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli civil and military rule.

Security officials said that Ya’alon and Mordechai are working to find a way to advance projects, like Rawabi, that have been frozen because the JWC has not met.

Rawabi is the brain child of Palestinian businessmen Bashar al-Masri, who together with the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company, has developed a city that will eventually house some 40,000 residents.


Israel must connect the new Palestinian city of Rawabi to the national water grid – HAARETZ

For many Israeli settlers and politicians, every Palestinian success is an Israeli failure.
Haaretz Editorial
The new Palestinian city of Rawabi, near Ramallah, inspires envy. Not necessarily because of the extraordinary success that was achieved in planning an entire city meant to provide decent, affordable housing for thousands of Palestinian families couples, nor on account of the stunning views it affords. No, this is the envy of Israeli settlers and politicians, for whom every Palestinian success is an Israeli failure.

The zero-sum game that characterizes relations with the Palestinians is played out not only in the international arena, but also in every inch of the territories and East Jerusalem. Rawabi, the construction materials for which were provided primarily by Israeli manufacturers and suppliers, has been waiting for months to be connected to the national water grid. Around 1,000 apartments that have been purchased there are move-in ready, but for a lack of running water.

The official excuse for the punishment meted out to the buyers is that the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee hasn’t met for years, and since every permit for supplying water requires the unanimous approval of this panel’s members, there’s no way to approve Rawabi’s connection to the water system. An ancillary claim is that the Palestinians have refused to convene the water committee because they don’t want to approve the supply of water to Israeli projects and to the settlements.

At first glance, these claims are correct. After all, the Joint Water Committee was set up pursuant to the Oslo Accords, and the requirement that both sides must agree to both Israeli and Palestinian projects was meant to produce an appropriate and fair allocation of the water. But in reality, these claims don’t hold water: There is no record of any Israeli project that has ever been thwarted for lack of a JWC permit.

More important, this reliance on the Oslo Accords as a source of authority for allocating water is ridiculous. After all, this agreement also requires Israel to remit to the Palestinian Authority the taxes it collects on the PA’s behalf. The Israeli government, which long ago declared the Oslo Accords dead and buried, and which ignores many of their provisions, adheres to them scrupulously when they allow it to punish the Palestinians. The result is that Israel violates the Oslo Accords’ provisions for giving the PA the tax money it owes, but complies when they allow it to withhold water from Rawabi.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories is in favor of connecting Rawabi to the water grid. It would not affect the security balance and would provide an excellent solution to the housing shortage in the West Bank. The cabinet must issue an immediate order to carry out the connection and allow home buyers to move in without further delay.