More than 10 Israeli companies have signed contracts to help build the new Palestinian city Rawabi, but only after promising not to use products or services from Israeli settlements, Bashar Masri, the project's developer confirmed yesterday in a conversation with TheMarker.
By agreeing to the no-settlements clause, the Israeli suppliers are in effect undertaking to boycott the settlements in their work on the city. Rawabi is going up near Ramallah, about 30 kilometers north of Jerusalem.
The contracts were first reported yesterday by Army Radio.
"We ask all the companies involved in building the city to sign an agreement containing a clause excluding the use of products from the settlements, which are illegal," Masri said. "We will not have it, and we will never purchase products or services from the settlements. We are not ashamed of this; just the opposite, we're proud of it. However, I want to add that we welcome the cooperation with Israeli companies - I'm refering to companies within the Green Line," Masri stressed.
The Palestinian Authority announced this year a boycott of the settlements, including the Jewish communities in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. The PA is expected to prohibit Palestinians from working in settlements, presumably from April 2011.
The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry plans to offer incentives, including wage subsidies, to firms operating in settlements that hire Israelis to fill the expected labor vacuum created by the PA decision.
Masri said that 10 to 12 Israeli companies have contracted to provide services and construction materials, adding that he would welcome additional Israeli suppliers. He declined to name the ones that have signed on, saying they probably would not want to be outed. All actual construction work will be carried out by Palestinian firms, he said.
The Israeli authorities are holding up progress on Rawabi by not issuing permits for new roads and water lines, Masri said. Israeli officials said yesterday that the issue is more political than it is economic.
The Manufacturers Association of Israel said yesterday in a statement that it welcomes the partnership between the Israeli companies and Massar International, the holding company founded by Masri that is creating what it calls "the first Palestinian masterplanned city."
However, the industrialists' organization said, "This is the first time we are hearing about the contract, and if it's correct - and we hope it isn't - it seems odd for Israeli firms to boycott Israeli products." The association said it planned to speak with the companies "and solve the problem with them."
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