Israel to Connect New Palestinian City to Water Grid

Although the Palestinians have resisted cooperating with Israel over connecting the new Palestinian city of Rawabi to the national water grid, Israel announced last week that it approved the move anyway.

Rawabi

Rawabi construction site. Feb. 23, 2014. (Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

Rawabi, the first planned city in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories, is intended to be a model of affordable modern living, featuring an urban commercial center and housing for a population of 25,000 just outside of the Palestinian political and economic center of Ramallah.

Israel announced last week that it approved the addition of Rawabi to the national water grid. The Prime Minister’s Office announced that Rawabi will be connected to the water grid, which will allow Palestinians to move into the first group of apartments that were completed six months ago. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had already ordered the Water Authority to include Rawabi a few weeks earlier, a decision that was supported by Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories). The order was countermanded by Minister of Energy and Water Silvan Shalom, who believed that such a decision required approval of the joint Israeli-Palestinian Water Committee.

The decision to approve the water hook-up is believed to be a conciliatory gesture by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu towards the US ahead of his visit to address Congress against the wishes of US President Barack Obama. Netanyahu has also authorized the use of tax funds withheld from the Palestinian Authority to repay Palestinian debt to the Israel Electric Company.

Open the water valve! (Flash90)

Open the water valve! (Flash90)

Rawabi was the idea of Palestinian businessman Bashar al-Masri, who worked with the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company to develop the city. Total cost of development is estimated at $850 million, making it the largest private sector project in Palestinian history. It will feature 6,000 housing units in six neighborhoods surrounding an urban center. This center will feature a high-end mall, schools, playgrounds, a hotel, a hospital and several religious institutions. Construction is estimated to have created 8-10,000 jobs for Palestinians, a third of them women, at wages 30 percent above the minimum. In the initial sale of housing, seven percent of the purchasers were single professional women and 11 percent were Palestinian Christians.

Assistance from Nearby Jewish Communities Rejected

Israel has offered assistance in various ways towards the construction of Rawabi. The Jewish National Fund donated 3,000 saplings to a greening project to plant a forest around the city. Offers of building supplies from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, however, were reportedly turned down.

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