Israel has decided to accelerate construction of its controversial West Bank separation barrier as Palestinian efforts to halt the project have failed.

The Israeli Cabinet agreed on several changes in the route of the West Bank security barrier that will enable construction to proceed more quickly.

"We must move forward," said Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He said Palestinian suicide bombers will continue to pose a threat in the future, and completing the fence will enable Israel to improve its counter-terrorism capabilities.

The new route of the barrier effectively annexes some West Bank territory, in order to protect two big Jewish settlement blocks. Therefore, Palestinians say, it is a land grab that will lead to more conflict. They say many Palestinians have been cut off from their land, schools, social services and families.

But Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan says, what is important to the Israeli government is that the fence saves Jewish lives.

"It is of major strategic importance, and I am delighted, better late than never, that now they understand that they must speed it up," said Schueftan.

Israel began building the barrier four years ago, but construction has been slowed by legal obstacles and bureaucracy. But Israel fears a new wave of Palestinian terror following the recent election of the Islamic militant group, Hamas, and therefore, completing the fence became a national priority.

The World Court in The Hague has ruled that the barrier is illegal under international law and must be torn down. But as far as Israel is concerned, the sooner the fence is built, the better.