RAWABI, West Bank — The billion-dollar, five-year gamble to build a new middle-class Palestinian city on a West Bank mountaintop was just about to welcome its first residents when the Israeli government decided this month to withhold a basic necessity: running water.
Before granting water access to the planned city of Rawabi, Israel — which controls the area that the water pipe would run through — wants Palestinian Authority officials to return to an Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee. The Palestinians abandoned the group in 2010 because they don’t want to approve water projects to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are built on land that Palestinians want for a future state — and which still get plenty of water.[Related: Palestinians vow to appeal U.S. ruling blaming PLO for terrorist attacks]
The man-made water crisis at Rawabi represents a blow to the middle-class Palestinian community, which hoped to enjoy the city’s outdoor mall, restaurants, boutiques, sports club, swimming pool, multiplex theater and school system, as soon as construction can be completed.
Builders were ready to hand over the keys to 450 buyers almost a year ago, when the permission to turn on the tap was withheld, a delay they thought would be temporary but now appears indefinite. But the finished apartments remain vacant, and a 12,000-seat Romanesque amphitheater sits empty; a downsized construction crew works on a slashed budget.