Architect eyes tony Palestinian city with eco-mindset and fast Internet
Bashar Masri is spearheading the first planned Palestinian city, pending Israeli approval. His young team – who order pizza and work through lunch – envision a 21st-century city conscious of its ecological impact and equipped with a fiber-optic network.
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But many hurdles remain, most of them leftovers from the controversial A, B, and C map that is the legacy of the Oslo Peace Accords. A full 92 percent of Rawabi is in Area A – under complete Palestinian control – and the other 8 percent is in Area B – a territory whose civilian affairs are run by the PA, but where Israel maintains overall security control.Skip to next paragraph
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The key challenge is the need for a new access road from Ramallah, and here it will run into C territory – the part of the West Bank where Israel has total control.
Masri has been trying for months to get the Israelis to agree to allow for the creation of the road. It’s not by chance that there’s a strip of Area C running through a cluster of Palestinian villages. Nearby is the Israeli settlement of Ateret.
“I’m asking for a new road and that the road be under Palestinian jurisdiction,” says Masri. “We already have technical approval, but to get the authorization, it will take an Israeli government decision. We’re optimistic that we’ll get it, and that’s why we started construction. I can’t imagine why any wise person in their right mind would stop this project.”
But earlier in April, about 60 settlers protested at the site, saying Rawabi was an attempt to create territorial contiguity with Ramallah, the West Bank metropolis that is about 3-1/2 miles to the south. The city’s construction would prevent settlers in Ateret from linking to the larger Ofra settlement to the east, settler leaders complained, and would create a de facto Palestinian state on the ground.
But "facts on the ground" is exactly the strategy that moderates in the PA have mapped out. Mr. Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, told the Monitor last November that he intends to establish a Palestinian state by the end of 2011.
In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published April 14, he seemed to move up that date to summer 2011.
A template for others?
To be sure, not everyone will be able to afford a home in tony Rawabi. With a housing shortage of 200,000 units across the West Bank, says George Rafidi, a sales and marketing representative for Bayti, it made sense to go for the middle-class market. If Rawabi is a success, he envisions planning a “Rawabi II” in less privileged areas such as Jenin or Qalqilya. “I own a home in Ramallah, but I still signed up to buy here because I think eventually it will be the place to be,” says Mr. Rafidi, who lived and studied in Texas before returning home a few years ago. “In Ramallah there are no parks for our kids to play in, so they run around in the street.
I see Rawabi not as a bedroom community for the people who live there, but as a destination for the whole West Bank.”
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