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Envisioning Public Services in a Palestinian State

The international community's "road map" for peace in the Middle East calls for a secure Israel and independent Palestine living side by side. Now there's a rail map, too... as well as plans for telecommunications and other essential services.

This practical vision for the region is outlined in a new report from the RAND Corporation, which says that beyond security, open borders are also essential for the success of a Palestinian state.

The report envisions an arc-shaped "infrastructure corridor" sweeping from northern Israel through the West Bank and ending in Gaza that would form the path for high-speed rail, telecommunications, energy and water lines linking major Palestinian cities and towns.

The Arc "fosters not just economic development but social cohesion, which is going to be key" to the success of a Palestinian state, Steven Simon of RAND, one of the leading authors of the study, tells Robert Siegel.

In the first 10 years of its existence, a Palestinian state would require about $33 billion in private and public investment. The per capita cost of $760 is "in the same ballpark" as the amount the international community has spent in Bosnia and Kosovo, according to Simon.

According to the report:

• The population of the West Bank and Gaza may reach 6.6 million by 2020, taxing the already overburdened infrastructure of a new Palestinian state.

• An infrastructure corridor linking the West Bank and Gaza could create conditions for economic development and sustainable population growth and engender a common sense of purpose.

• The corridor, called the Arc, would support high-speed interurban rail, a toll road, an aqueduct, an energy network, and telecommunications lines linking Palestine’s major cities and towns.

• Boulevards connecting the train stations to the towns would create new areas for housing and commercial activity.

• The Arc concept provides for sustainable development and would preserve open land for agriculture, parks and nature reserves.

• The Arc's core infrastructure would cost about $6 billion and employ more than 100,000 Palestinians over five years.

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