Beyond Enclaves in Palestine (Part 2)

arcI’m examining three very different visions of a planned future for Palestine in a week when the issue has been very much in the news. Of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Desmond Tutu said this week:

“you can give up on all other problems. You can give up on nuclear disarmament, you can give up on ever winning a war against terror, you can give it up. You can give up any hope of our faiths ever working really amicably and in a friendly way together. This, this, this is the problem, and it is in our hands”.

And US President Obama said: “I think it is important not to assume the worst but to assume the best.”

The first part of this series looked at a very dark vision for the future of the West Bank. The second plan I’m examining here certainly ‘assumes the best’ as Obama puts it.

The second plan for Palestine is that produced by Suisman Urban Design for the Rand Corporation to prepare a spatial strategy that  focuses on the transport links through an otherwise dislocated and dispersed landscape of enclaves, settlements and territories

Named ‘the Arc’, it proposes a central rail corridor to connect the main towns of the West Bank, with potential onward links South to Gaza and maybe even North to Haifa and Tel Aviv. In its continuity, its linearity and cross-linearity, in its obvious sensibleness, it is perhaps an antidote to the pessimist realism of Weizman and the dystopian renderings of Ramos. It points to the European model of settlement planning and especially the Copenhagen ‘finger plan’. If this were proposed anywhere else in the world it would be, well, noteworthy, perhaps prizewinning, but not astounding. The fact that this is Palestine makes us consider what we really think is going to happen there in the next fifty years, with rapid population growth and no real signs of a political breakthrough.

Can the Arc possibly work? Doug Suisman, the chief author of the plan, noted his surprise when he found that Palestine had never had a national spatial strategy, whether written by Palestinians, Israelis or anyone else, and that his team’s was effectively the first.

So whether the plan is realistic or not, it is certainly one basis for further discussion and planning. And if it isn’t realistic for Palestine to have an integrated transport corridor, what positive alternatives are there?

In Part 3 I’ll consider a very different vision of Palestine’s future, from a resident of Ramallah.

Read the previous installment: Part 1

Part 3 coming soon

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