Rawabi – the background story: Israel rejected an American request to transfer planning authorities to the Palestinians in order to complete the construction of the main access road to the Palestinian city of Rawabi, Kafe Knesset has learned. The proposal was debated at length during the security cabinet meeting earlier this week in which Netanyahu briefed the ministers on his trip to the US. More specifically, several economic gestures to the Palestinians were discussed ahead of Jason Greenblatt’s arrival to the region.
Bashar Masri, the Palestinian billionaire, entrepreneur, and founder of Rawabi, was one of the first meetings Greenblatt had on the Palestinian side back in April. Masri has been pushing to expand the road to Rawabi which is built on Area C lands under full Israeli control. Planning and building has been stalled for years due to right wing group’s petitions to the Supreme Court. According to several sources who attended the meeting, Bibi’s special envoy, Isaac Molcho, presented the US proposal to transfer planning authorities to the Palestinians, which was immediately rejected since it would constitute a change to the Oslo accords status quo which gives exclusive control of planning in Area C to the Israelis. Netanyahu himself vetoed the proposal and was backed by the cabinet.
“Everyone agrees on the need to complete the road, but it can be done by expropriating Palestinian private lands. This is an attempt by the Palestinians to encircle Area C and steal political achievements disguised as civilian gestures,” a senior Israeli source said.
According to another source, the Palestinians told the administration that if the road is to be built on expropriated Palestinian lands, “no one will travel on it and that is a lie”. An administration official told Kafe Knesset, “Rawabi as a modern city for Palestinians is a great model. The existing road leading to it is inadequate,” but the official didn’t confirm or deny the request to transfer area C planning authorities. “We continue to encourage the parties to work together to find a solution that provides Rawabi an appropriate road,” the official added.
Bye bye Mano: Mano Trachtenberg, one of the most respected Zionist Union MKs, announced his resignation from the Knesset yesterday. Trachtenberg, a professor of economics who has taken an active role in designing Israeli policy in several public roles in the past decade, only served for two and a half a years, which is considered a short tenure. He now plans to return to academic life and is set to assume a new post at Tel Aviv University. In a Facebook post, Trachtenberg explained his decision to resign with a “desire to devote himself to writing about the major socio-economic issues facing Israeli society, while trying to formulate a comprehensive approach and even a vision for a more prosperous, cohesive and just society.” He stressed that he would continue to support the Zionist Union and its new chairman, Avi Gabai, and help him “bring about the desired revolution.” He is to be replaced by Saleh Saad, a veteran Labour activist in the Druze community, bringing the number of Druze MKs to four. But it is not necessarily good news for Gabbai, as Saad is closely associated with his rival, Amir Peretz, who lost the primary race and has not fully conceded with Gabbai’s victory yet.