Rawabi (Arabic: روابي, meaning "The Hills") is the first Palestinian planned city in the West Bank. Rawabi is to be located near Birzeit and Ramallah. A master plan has been drawn up for the city, which will consist of 10,000 homes in six neighborhoods with a population of 40,000. Construction began in January 2010.
Rawabi is 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) northwest of Ramallah, 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) north of Birzeit, 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the north of Jerusalem, 40 km to the east of Tel Aviv, and 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of Nablus. Amman, the capital of Jordan, is 70 kilometres (43 mi) to the east of Rawabi. The construction site stretches over two ridges, 700 meters above sea level. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Mediterranean Sea, 40 kilometres (25 mi) to the west, and the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv from the proposed site. Rawabi's municipal boundaries will encompass 6,300,000 square meters of land. Residential and commercial development is based on a population estimate of 40,000. The Palestinian National Authority does not need Israeli approval for construction since the land for Rawabi falls entirely within Area 'A', which is under full Palestinian control.
The development is linked to a $500m affordable mortgage scheme. The Washington Post reports that Rawabi "is specifically designed for upwardly mobile families of a sort that in the United States might gravitate to places such as Reston, VA. The developments are also relying on another American import, the home mortgage, including creation of a Fannie Mae-style institution for the West Bank".
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 is expected to generate between 8,000 and 10,000 new jobs in the construction sector. The project involves a public-private partnership between the Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, jointly owned by Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company (the Qatar Investment Authority's property investment fund) and Massar International, and the Palestinian National Authority. The Palestinian Authority is responsible for providing off-site infrastructure, while Bayti is tasked with the design and development of the city. The Rawabi economic growth strategy has the aim of creating 3,000 to 5,000 new jobs in "knowledge economy" industries including information technology, pharmaceuticals and health care.
On 15 March 2010, two grant agreements were signed by Bashar Masri, Managing Director of Bayti Real Estate Investment Company and chairman of Massar International, and Leocadia I. Zak, Director of the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), in the presence of US Consul General Daniel Rubinstein. The USTDA grants are funding two feasibility studies. The first study to develop a master plan for Rawabi's ICT infrastructure and services was won by American management consultancy company Decision/Analysis Partners LLC of Fairfax, Virginia. The second study will examine the possibility of building a tertiary waste water treatment facility for Rawabi and surrounding communities. Previously, United States Senator John Kerry visited the construction site on 28 February along with Rubenstein and David Harden, senior advisor to the American special envoy to the Middle East, George J. Mitchell.
The Rawabi master plan and Preliminary Design was developed by a Multi-disciplinary team from AECOM led by Raphael Samach (now with SAMACH+SEO), in cooperation with local experts from Birzeit and An-Najah National Universities and the technical teams of Bayti. It has been approved by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Higher Planning Council.
The residential areas will surround a city centre that includes banks, shops, petrol stations, offices, eight schools, playgrounds, walking trails, two mosques, a church, a hospital, hotel, cinema and numerous other arts venues.
Thousands of saplings are being planted as part of a greening project which involves growing a forest around the city. The Jewish National Fund is donating 3,000 saplings to the project, the announcement of which sparked some internal Israeli and Jewish controversy. Saplings have also been donated by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and by local and international organisations, corporations and individuals.
Only in January 2012 an access road for trucks was approved, shortly before a visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The access road for inhabitants still needs to be approved. It needs to pass through Area 'C' and cross Route 465, used mainly by inhabitants of nearby Israeli settlements Ateret and Halamish and Palestinian inhabitants of Birzeit. At the beginning of 2013 a new stretch of road linking 465 road with Ramalla was approved, intended for Palestinian traffic only.
Land purchase and water supply
Over the course of two years, the developers bought private property from 2,000 families living in Canada, Iraq, Spain, Kuwait, Britain, Portugal and Italy. The source of the city's water supply is not yet clear. One possibility is hooking up to Mekorot, the Israeli water utility, via Ateret.
In 2010, Israeli settlers held demonstrations to protest the project, although they acknowledged that they could not prevent the city's construction. Some settlers said they would establish settlements nearby. Masri has made it a requirement that all contractors working on the project "sign an agreement refusing to use Israeli products originating from the settlements or work in the settlements themselves".
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