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Israeli Cabinet Meeting on Proposed Security Fence - 2003-10-01


The Israeli cabinet is meeting Wednesday to approve an extension to its controversial security barrier in the West Bank. The main issue facing the cabinet is whether to enclose Jewish settlements in the West Bank within the boundaries of the security fence.

The U.S. administration has raised strong objections to such a move and has asked Israel to change the planned route. The Palestinian leadership objects to the barrier outright, saying it is an attempt by Israel to claim more land in the West Bank. Palestinian leaders say that Israel also wants to use the fence to unilaterally determine the boundaries of a future Palestinian state.

Israel rejects the claims, saying the barrier is meant only to stop Palestinian militants from crossing into the Jewish State to launch suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. Israel also says the fence can be removed later if a lasting peace is reached with the Palestinians.

A majority of Israeli cabinet ministers was expected to vote in favor of having the barrier erected also to protect the large Jewish settlement of Ariel in the north of the West Bank and a smaller one known as Kedumim.

There is also a proposal to erect a double fence in the West Bank to protect Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport.

U.S. officials are expected to visit Israel soon to determine whether there is an urgent need to improve security by sealing off Palestinian villages east of the airport. This investigation will help determine if Washington will impose sanctions because of the fence building.

One possible option under consideration is for the U.S. administration to reduce the size of its loan guarantees to Israel.