RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- PA National Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh said Saturday that the first planned Palestinian city in Ramallah could be "a real opportunity to absorb Palestinian workers employed in settlements," a statement read.
The Rawabi City project, he said, could provide between 8,000 to 10,000 jobs during the construction period and up to 3,000 jobs in the city itself once complete.
"This will contribute to the flourishing of the Palestinian economy, creating alternatives for Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements, especially as the city is established on supporting national industry," the minister added.
The PA announced a boycott of settlement goods at the beginning of 2010, later saying it would criminalize working in settlements. Officials said they hoped to find alternative jobs for settlement workers by the end 2011, but have been criticized for the short time-frame and lack of alternative work opportunities for those affected.
In October, Israel's environment minister said he would attempt to block Rawabi's construction over concerns for the environment. Abu Libdeh denounced the comments, and said Israel was "trying, through weak excuses, to weaken our national economy.
"Any obstruction to such a project is an obstruction to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state," he added.
He described the project as "very important," providing housing for thousands of Palestinians and said it was carefully planned out with international partners "in contradiction to the illegal and random settlements that do not take into consideration the simplest environmental concerns, when the harmed ones are the Palestinian villages they surround."