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A gleaming bus stop greets visitors on the main road to the new Palestinian city of Rawabi in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Construction equipment is busy carving blocks out of the hillsides. A sign directs traffic to the police station in one direction and to the showroom filled with scale models in another. A giant Palestinian flag flutters over this city-in-the-making. And, after years of struggle, the first “Rawabians” are moving in.
When I first visited Rawabi, in 2013, with an Israeli pro-peace group called One Voice, the cynic in me doubted whether it would ever be completed. So many stories of Palestinian projects tend to be oversold for international consumption. One Arab village gets a few buckets to turn garbage into fuel, and it’s billed as a major success story, but in the end, the overall impact is null. Looking out over the slopes of Rawabi two years ago, I saw that the first buyers hadn’t yet moved in. Israeli authorities had not agreed to hook up the planned city to a water supply. And the Israeli-built roads in the West Bank did not feature signs directing traffic here.
But now that Rawabi has overcome these hurdles, I have to admit that this is an impressive achievement. It’s a real success story for Palestinians, one that should be built on and replicated. Even the current spate of violence must not derail it. […]