The Israeli cabinet said on Wednesday that it would continue to build a controversial fence in the West Bank to stop Palestinian suicide bombers, reports the British Broadcasting Company.
The next stage in construction includes a southward extension of the existing barrier and the building of separate, horseshoe-shaped fences around several major settlements, reports Reuters news agency.
The government decided to leave a gap near the sprawling settlement of Ariel, 12 miles inside the West Bank, and delay a final decision on whether it will be on Israel's side of the barrier, in order to appease the United States.
Further discussions on the issue between the United States and the Israeli government.
The United States has expressed criticism of the fence, saying it could derail the Middle East peace plan.
Palestinians have also expressed outrage at this new fence and see it as counter productive to the peace process.
Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, expressed outrage at the fence.
"It is undermining and sabotaging President Bush's vision of a two-state solution, it is undermining and sabotaging the peace process, undermining and sabotaging the 'road map'," he told Reuters.
Erekat wrote letters to the United Sates, the European Union, Russian and the United Nations, asking them to stop Israel from building the fence, saying it would separate Palestinians from each other and not just from the Israelis.
There is already an internationally recognized barrier between Israel and the West Bank, called the Green Line. America has threatened to withhold loan guarantees from Israel for the sections of the fence that stray too far from this barrier.
Richard Boucher, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, expressed some concerns about the fence and said that the United States would look more closely at Israel's latest security decision.
The AP quoted him earlier this week, as saying, "We know that the Israelis need to deal with security concerns."
He also said that the new fence should be built in such a way as not to disrupt the lives of Palestinians.
The Palestinians view this new fence as an Israeli attempt to secure as much land in the West Bank as possible. They have been living with some form of barrier and Israeli checkpoints for a while, but the new fence threatens to cut deeper than other sections so far.
Justin Huggler a reporter for British daily, the Independent, based in the West Bank, writes, "The effects on Palestinians from the sections of wall built so far have been disastrous. Entire villages have been cut off from the rest of the West Bank. Palestinian farmers isolated from their fields have been forced to move their families to sleep in tents on their land so as not to lose their crops. Palestinian school children have to queue for hours at Israeli checkpoints to be allowed to cross the wall to go to school, or to get back home. The city of Qalqilya is completely surrounded by huge concrete walls to protect the new Trans-Israel Highway from shootings."
The Israelis see the fence as vital to their security, reports the BBC.
A spokesman from the Security Fence for Israel was quoted by the BBC as saying that 80 percent of the people in Israel felt the need to fence in the Palestinians.
"They want their own state, fine. But we just need to separate from them," he said.
He went on to talk about how easy it is for Palestinian suicide bombers to come from the West Bank and attack Israel.
To learn more about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what life is like on both sides of the fence, come to a discussion at the International House tonight at 7.

- Compiled by Sarah Stiles