Arab-American wealthy entrepreneur Bashar al-Masri, the founder and visionary force behind Rawabi, the first planned, high-tech Arab city in Judea and Samaria, is now funding a Harvard Kennedy School fellowship program for current and emerging leaders from the Palestinian Authority.
The Rawabi Fellowship for Leaders from Palestine will provide tuition, health insurance, and stipends for Palestinian Authority students in the School’s degree programs, as well as financial aid for PA participants in the school’s executive education programs.
“Principled and effective public leadership is needed to tackle the range of challenges that the people in the region are facing,” said Douglas W. Elmendorf, Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. “This generous gift will empower future generations of leaders to strengthen the region’s political, social, and economic development.”
In a December 2016 interview with the Jerusalem Post, Masri said, “I support BDS… I support civil disobedience, but when the occupation will end and we will get our freedom people from both nations could love and marry each other.
He also told the interviewer that in 1948, when his home town of Nablus was under Jordanian control, he “saw his life goal to liberate his homeland… I realized that all I wanted to do in my life is to liberate Palestine. I wanted to know how I can fight the Israelis and get our land back.”
Rawabi (“The Hills”), located near Birzeit and Ramallah, is touted as the “flagship” of a future Palestinian State. Construction began in January 2010, and by 2014 650 apartments were made available, for an estimated 3,000 residents. On March 1, 2015, al-Masri announced that Israel would connect the city to the Israeli-run water grid, making it possible for residents to move in.
In 2014, the Regavim NGO noticed that the plans for Rawabi, which is located in Areas A and B, under Palestinian Authority control, would also encroach and attempt to take over lands in Area C, which is exclusively controlled by Israel.
Its Industrial Zone is planned in Area C, and no other access roads have been built for the town in Areas A or B.
Regavim petitioned the government against Rawabi’s expansion, noting that the planned main access road to the town, in Area C, would require illegally expropriating privately owned Arab land and was being built without the owners’ consent.
In 2016, Rawabi’s attorney told the Israeli Supreme Court that the town has purchased all the lands for the road, and supplied the Civil Administration with documents from the Palestinian Authority, an act which then Supreme Court President Miriam Naor had deemed “provocative.” The attorney said he would refile with Israeli documents.
According to Regavim, Rawabi has not properly registered all their land claims in Area C, and the Civil Administration cannot legalize the main road, until Rawabi proves they actually own the land.
Israel’s Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut said it appears that not all the owners of the lands have actually been identified.
Al-Masri is one of the few PA Arabs who follows a systematic and constructive plan to establish a Palestinian State which bypasses the political thugs who run the Authority. He was named “Global Leader of Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum, and ranked 38th on Fortune Magazine’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Palestine Development and Investment Company, and the Board of Trustees of An-Najah National University. He is also a member of the Deans’ Council of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
It’s safe to say that had the PA Arabs had two or three additional operators of al-Masri’s caliber they would have had their own state long ago.
“With its exceptional faculty and students, and its tremendous power to convene disparate groups and individuals, Harvard Kennedy School is uniquely qualified to educate Palestine’s future leaders,” al-Masri said. “It is critical that we support those who are, or will become, catalysts for positive change in Palestine, with the goal of moving toward a prosperous and peaceful future.”
During their time at the school, the Rawabi Fellows will have access to events and programs at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs’ Middle East Initiative. The Initiative, which will provide travel and internship support for the fellows, will serve as a base to build community among the fellows and other students.
“The Rawabi Fellowship will make it possible for us to attract academically gifted Palestinian students to the Kennedy School, and to contribute to their development as leaders, policymakers, and intellectuals,” said Tarek Masoud, Sultan of Oman Professor of International Relations and faculty affiliate of the Middle East Initiative. “Training the Arab world’s best and brightest is one of the principal ways in which the Kennedy School contributes to development and progress in the region, and the Middle East Initiative is proud to be part of this effort.”