This week, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin publicly lamented the challenge facing the new Palestinian city of Rawabi, whose existence he called a “clear Israeli and Zionist interest.” Rawabi is now ready for its first residents – except that there is no running water. This problem has continued for months, and President Rivlin drew attention to a Haaretz editorial identifying its source: the zero-sum game that Israeli settlers and politicians play with the lives of Palestinians.
APN Chair Jim Klutznick recently brought you the story of Rawabi and how it can benefit Israel – his words are more timely and urgent than ever.
President and CEO
Americans for Peace Now
There is a new West Bank development nearing completion that I think you should know about. I say that because it can advance the cause of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The development is the almost-completed Palestinian city of Rawabi, some five miles north of Ramallah and twelve miles north of Jerusalem. It is a Palestinian planned community, built to serve the tech-savvy, entrepreneurial middle class. What’s more, Rawabi is the largest private sector employer in the West Bank. It is an impressive exercise in Palestinian entrepreneurship, self-reliance, creativity and ingenuity.
Since negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in April, any development that moves the two sides toward the goal of a viable Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel is to be applauded. Rawabi is one such development—it is creating jobs and advancing the Palestinians’ economy and society.
Unlike Jewish settlement development, however, Rawabi faces bureaucratic obstacles imposed by the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The latest is connecting water to the city, which has not happened. Palestinian entrepreneur Bashar Masri, the driving force behind Rawabi, told an Americans for Peace Now delegation in September that Israel is demanding that neighboring Jewish settlements be hooked up to the water pipeline. Rawabi is built almost entirely in “Area A”—land which is under full civil and security control by the Palestinian Authority and will become part of the Palestinian state, according to the Oslo Accords. Masri told APN that acceding to the pipeline demand would grant legitimacy to the settlement enterprise.
APN rejects that kind of extremism. Given the fragility of the current situation in the West Bank, it is nonsensical for Israel to try to block the non-violent emergence of a town that will be a green, high-tech and wired city—a Palestinian 21st century city.
APN is working to expose and confront Israel’s failure to fully encourage Rawabi’s development. We believe that even when the political path to a two-state solution is blocked—as it is now—every effort should be made to build the infrastructure for a viable future Palestinian state.
And it is essential to prevent attempts to make a future two-state solution impossible. This is exactly what Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), APN’s sister organization in Israel, has been doing for years through its Settlement Watch project.
It was Peace Now that tipped off the world to what others were ignoring: That just before Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama on Oct. 1, the Netanyahu government went ahead with final approval of a plan for construction of a new settlement in East Jerusalem—Givat Hamatos. That move came on the heels of the takeover of seven properties by settlers in Silwan, an ancient Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu apparently was blindsided by the anger the revelation unleashed—the Obama administration warned that the new project would distance Israel from “even its closest allies.” The prime minister feebly called the U.S. reaction “against American values” and blamed Peace Now, saying the movement “shows a lack of national responsibility to do something like this.” Bibi was challenged by the president and rightfully so. Not only was Bibi wrong, he lost his temper and directed his ire at us.
But as the New York Times and others pointed out: “The problem is not the disclosure but the fact of the project itself.”
Added Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent: “Peace Now was merely doing its job—challenging the government by means of public discourse: just as rightist groups pressured Netanyahu not to free Palestinian prisoners, or to free the spy Jonathan Pollard. Netanyahu has only himself to blame.”
It’s not the first time. Peace Now’s publicizing new settlement projects has kept this issue in the headlines and has compelled Israel’s leaders to be held accountable for settlement expansion.
Just doing our job. And we do it well. Peace Now—
- Educates the Israeli public about the dangers of the status quo, the damage that the diplomatic stalemate does to Israel and the need to refrain from damaging unilateral measures while the negotiating process is on hold. Peace Now takes hundreds of Israelis every year on tours of West Bank settlements. It takes Israeli politicians and journalists, foreign diplomats and dignitaries on aerial tours of the West Bank.
- Serves as the convener of progressive Israelis. For the past four years, Peace Now has sponsored an annual daylong brainstorming and strategizing conference in Tel Aviv that brings together progressive Israeli organizations, activists, politicians and celebrities.
- Fights for democracy and tolerance in the face of extreme right-wing hate violence. Peace Now waged a campaign against the settlers’ Price Tag terrorism and organized visits to Palestinian West Bank villages vandalized by settlers.
- Wins cases in court. Peace Now routinely takes the settlers—and the government—to court, to be held legally accountable for illegal settlement activity, for breaking the Israeli law. And it wins.
With APN’s support, Peace Now’s activities help further Israel’s status as a start-up nation, a country that finds solutions that others can’t see. We reflect the optimism and pragmatism that Israel was born into. And we’re the antidote to the extremists who say that Israel can’t do anything right—or anything wrong. We support Rawabi because it is good for Israel and good for the Palestinians.
Years ago, Israel was at a loss trying to figure out how it would have sufficient water for its future needs. It embarked on a massive desalination initiative. With the future secure, Israel is now working with the Jordanians and Palestinians on a water-sharing agreement that reportedly will include building a desalination plant on the Jordanian side of the Gulf of Aqaba and saving the Dead Sea from drying up.
Just as the tools for solving its water problems were there for Israel to use—they just required vision, perseverance and investment—so are the potential tools for achieving a diplomatic breakthrough toward peace. There is a Palestinian partner who is willing to negotiate. There are pragmatic Arab governments who can and likely will play a supportive role in pushing toward a peace settlement—an Arab Peace Initiative that is an advancement from where we were. There is an American administration that is willing to broker peace between Israel and its neighbors. We now need an Israeli government with the political will to reach an agreement with a Palestinian leadership that can deliver.
Instead of hindering Rabawi—or the Palestinian state—Israel could take an active role in shaping them. It has the power to advance the process. Peace Now will do its part, offering a rational voice among heated debates and speaking up loudly when Israel veers away from the path toward an agreement with the Palestinians.
I ask you to support the work we do—here and in Israel. Please join Americans for Peace Now. We’re a major funder of Peace Now in Israel. And in the United States we push for pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Washington. Our website will offer you useful information about Israel, settlements and the importance of a two-state solution to Israel’s future, as well as news and analysis.
The current day story of peace, Rawabi and the relevance of water are reflected in the biblical past in the story of Hagar and Ishmael. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, fathered by Abraham. Sarah, Abraham’s wife cast both Hagar and Ishmael out to wander in the wilderness and they were running out of water. Ishmael was dying, but an angel led Hagar to a well of water. Let us help lead Rawabi to water.
Let us stand for what is right and what is solvable for both peace and Rawabi. Solvable in no small part because of the work APN and Peace Now do. The paradigm of a two-state solution is our history. We are making this happen. Please join us to make that history become reality. Be an angel and let’s help bring these two warring cousins to the well of peace and security. Please do so by making a tax-deductible contribution.
Chair, Americans for Peace Now
JAMES KLUTZNICK is currently the Board Chair of Americans for Peace Now, and has
been on the APN Board since it was founded in 1981. As a native of Chicago, Mr. Klutznick grew up in an
environment of public service and Jewish community activism, and has been involved in Jewish public life for
many years. In addition to serving on the APN Board, he was President of Chicago’s Jewish Family and Community
Service and the head of Jewish United Fund’s real estate division.
A graduate of Princeton University, where he has sat on the Advisory Committees of the School of Architecture and the Near Eastern Studies Department, Mr. Klutznick also served a tour of duty with the United States Air Force.
Mr. Klutznick is co-founder and Vice Chairman of Senior Lifestyle Corporation, a national senior housing development and management firm. He has been involved in the planning, development, leasing and management of shopping centers, mixed-use developments and senior housing for over 40 years.