Palestinians move into new city, part of statehood dream

Published 9:56 am Tuesday, June 14, 2016

RAWABI, West Bank — After years of setbacks, Palestinians are proudly starting to move into their first planned city being built in the West Bank — a move that isn’t just about real estate but also a symbol of their quest for statehood after nearly 50 years of Israeli military occupation.

Though Rawabi is still unfinished, its glistening high-rises and shopping centers bring a rare sense of pride and excitement to the territory at a time of growing malaise over a standstill in Mideast peace efforts.

Palestinian-American developer Bashar Masri dreamed up Rawabi, which means “hills” in Arabic, back in 2007. But the construction of the city, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Jerusalem, has repeatedly stalled due to political obstacles. Work only began in 2012.

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Perched on a once desolate hilltop, it’s the first Palestinian city being built according to a modern urban design plan. The organized layout and modern facilities are in jarring contrast to chaotic Palestinian towns and villages in the area.

Since January, the first residents have been slowly moving in.

Mahmoud Khatib came here with his wife and three children from a nearby village because they wanted to live in a modern city. First, “it was an idea,” the 41-year-old banker told The Associated Press. Then “it became a reality.”

His wife Sanaa, 40, is thrilled about her new home.

“Here everything is organized. There is a safe playing area for the kids where you don’t feel worried when they go out. The services are central and available around the clock,” she said. “That’s the place I dreamed to live in.”

Palestinians see the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast, as part of their independent state, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Under interim accords reached two decades ago, the Palestinian government now rules about a third of the territory. The rest remains under Israeli control, and home to some 370,000 Jewish settlers. The last round of peace talks broke down two years ago, and prospects for resuming negotiations — much less reaching an agreement — are dim.