JERUSALEM Ñ The United States wants Israel to halt the construction
of a security fence along the West Bank to protect against Palestinian
Israeli officials said the State Department has relayed several messages
to the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon regarding the $1 billion
project. The messages asserted that the security fence could serve as a
border claim by Israel and represents a unilateral change in the West Bank.
"They [U.S. officials] are concerned that the security fence will harm
efforts to start implementation of the roadmap," an Israeli officials said.
The Defense Ministry launched the security fence project last year from
northern Israel near the West Bank city of Jenin. The construction has been
moving toward the Israeli settlement blocs of Ariel and Immanuel.
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The fence is expected to be between 50 and 80 meters wide and include
moats studded with metal obstacles to obstruct vehicles. The fence will
also contain electronic indicators, thermal observation posts and video
Israeli officials said the State Department is concerned that the
security fence will include Israeli communities in the West Bank. Israel's
Defense Ministry has recommended that the fence include Ariel, Immanuel and
Last month, the United Nations issued a report that called the security
fence illegal and de facto annexation. The report, authored by John Dugard,
who specializes in Palestinian rights, asserted that the fence would bring
seven percent of the West Bank under direct Israeli control.
In response, officials said, Sharon has decided to delay a construction
phase of the fence through the central region. Sharon's envoy, Dov
Weisglass, has been in Washington for talks with the White House on the
Sharon has refused to discuss the future of the security fence as well
as the roadmap with his Cabinet. Instead, he said the issues would be
reviewed with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan
Shalom. Israel has relayed 15 objections to the roadmap.