Masri has lived outside of Palestine for periods of his life, and is, by
all accounts, largely untainted by connections to the PA's notoriously rent-seeking inner circle. He's a trim middle-aged man, smartly-dressed, friendly
and approachable. There seemed no more appropriate a place to talk to him one-on-one than on a wide terrace overlooking the construction site, with hills, valleys,
and rising apartment blocks -- the future he was in the process of building -- stretched out in front of him.
"On a good, clear day, you can see Tel Aviv, Ashdod, and Ashkelon," he told me. "One-third of Palestine and Israel." Rawabi is in the second-largest, yet
most sparsely-populated Area A in the West Bank -- from the terrace, which faces away from Ateret, you can see expanses of mostly-empty hills. Perhaps in Masri's
mind, they are awaiting Rawabis of their own. When I returned to Washington, I asked him in a phone interview if he viewed his project as the first of many
such planned cities in Palestine. "I always say our success is measured not by how many homes we sell. It is measured when a second Rawabi is established," he
Standing on the terrace, I asked him if his willingness to undertake such a massive project reflected any optimism about the coming years -- no one invests
this much time, money, and energy into something if they expect war is on the horizon. "This project is built for today's politics," he replied. "If it gets a
little worse, or a little better -- fine. If it gets really bad, we're in trouble. If it doesn't, then great. We're not waiting on a breakthrough."
estimated that Israeli obstruction had delayed the project by a year and a half. The bureaucratic inertia could continue: For instance, developers
were surprised to find out that, by a quirk in the West Bank's notoriously Byzantine and palimpsestic legal codes, they required the approval of a joint
Israeli-Palestinian water commission created through the Oslo Accords to build a sewage treatment plant in an Area A, approval that they recently
received. There's also the still-unresolved matter of the access road. But thus far, Rawabi had
flourished in spite of delays and inconveniences.
Could it survive its isolation, though -- could this hilltop off of a two-lane highway get enough water and electricity to support 45,000 people living at a
middle class standard? "There is nothing here at all. We're out in the boondocks," he conceded. "We're building everything from scratch." One needed only
to glance at the busy construction site below to understand that Masri considers this a point of pride, far from a potential death-sentence for his
I asked Masri about something that had jumped out at me during the 3-D video. The finished Rawabi, I'd noted, had the same terraced garden parks, stoic,
modular apartment design, and concentric hilltop roads that I had seen in Talpiyot Misrach, a new neighborhood on the fringes of West Jerusalem. His city
looked very, well, Israeli.