Settlers: New Palestinian city will harm security, the environment
Construction of West Bank city Rawabi near Ramallah supposed to have 5,000 housing units for 25,000 people.
Right-wing activists have begun organizing a campaign against the new Palestinian city of Rawabi, which recently began taking shape in the West Bank. The activists claim the new city will cause traffic jams, pollution, security issues and will only benefit Palestinian elites.
Rawabi's construction began some two months ago north of Bir Zeit, about 10 kilometers from Ramallah. The new city is supposed to have 5,000 housing units for some 25,000 people. Most of the designated city falls in Area A, under civil and military Palestinian Authority control.
The new apartments are expected to sell for between $38,000 to $75,000 per unit, and the city is also planned to have industrial and commercial zones, with municipal infrastructure using "green" technologies.
The overall cost of the project, being built by the Qatari-based firm Bayti, is estimated at $200 million, raised from private donations and aid from Gulf states.
Near Rawabi is the settlement of Ateret, with some 70 families. "You can see the construction from my window, they're at it day and night," said Ateret resident Motti Hominer, who began organizing against the town. "Where are those 25,000 people going to drive? My wife for instance works in Shilo, how is she going to get to work? You're going to put 20,000 more cars on that road. Anyone going to Jerusalem will get stuck in traffic."
"And while we're at it, where are they going to dump their waste? All their landfill sites are full. We've got Wadi Harmiya here choking with sewage. If we're going to be neighbors we need to talk about it ... how do we know their sewage won't end up in the wadi between us and them," said Hominer.
According to a recent newsletter published by Bayti, Rawabi will have a sewage treatment plant allowing it to use reclaimed water in agriculture. Construction of the plant, subcontracted to an American company, will begin in the spring, the newsletter said.
Hominer also voiced concerns that the new Palestinian city may encroach close enough to put his community under risk of attack.
"Maybe they'll start shooting at us like they shoot at Psagot," he said. "Maybe we'll be living behind concrete walls before long."
The residents were joined by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), who said he approached Defense Minister Ehud Barak about their concerns.
"We're in a construction freeze and the Arabs are building," he said. "The solution for the Palestinian housing shortage is building new neighborhoods on existing infrastructure. Building a new city from scratch is wasteful. It's not even meant to resolve humanitarian problems it's for the well-to-do."
"The city's only purpose is to create territorial continuity between Ramallah and Samaria. It was planned in a rush, without proper infrastructure and without a solution for the sewage that will go flowing into the valleys," said Yehuda Eliyahu of the Regavim advocacy group. "It's part of a wider move of setting up a de-facto Palestinian state."