Bri­tons in­vest in Rawabi, Pales­tinian city of dreams

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY JENNI FRAZER

BASHAR MASRI is like few Pales­tini­ans in the rau­cous, tough world of the Mid­dle East.

Ur­bane and softly spo­ken, he is the en­tre­pre­neur be­hind one of the Arab com­mu­nity’s most am­bi­tious projects — the new city of Rawabi, 15 km from Ra­mal­lah.

The so­phis­ti­cated and cos­mopoli­tan Mr Masri is tak­ing a huge gam­ble with Rawabi, a city in­tended to house be­tween 25,000 and 30,000 people, with the op­tion of ex­pand­ing it to hold at least 100,000.

As he ex­plained to a group of in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists in Rawabi last week, the city is set to be home to sec­u­lar, ed­u­cated Pales­tini­ans with both hus­bands and wives work­ing.

There is a mosque in Rawabi, but there is also a church for the dwin­dling pop­u­la­tion of Chris­tian Arabs. But Mr Masri’s real am­bi­tion is to build a Pales­tinian city that will at­tract up­wardly mo­bile in­hab­i­tants, the mir­ror of up­mar­ket Tel Aviv satel­lite towns like Ra­mat Aviv or Gi­vatayim.

Iron­i­cally, the project, whose ini­tial fund­ing came from Mr Masri and the Qatari govern­ment, is at­tract­ing high­pro­file Jewish in­vestors. These in­clude Amer­ica’s Michael Stein­hardt, Ge­orge Soros, and the Bri­tish busi­ness­man Jeremy Coller.

Lord Levy, Bri­tain’s for­mer Mid­dle East en­voy un­der Tony Blair, has vis­ited Rawabi and has hosted in­vestors’ break­fasts in Lon­don and Is­rael.

Mr Masri had hoped for the first homes to be oc­cu­pied by the end of June but a block by Is­rael on the is­su­ing of wa­ter per­mits has de­layed the move. He said: “To say I am frus­trated with this de­lay is an un­der­state­ment. We are be­ing held cap­tive to a po­lit­i­cal process over which we have no con­trol.”

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