Israel Considers Extending Its Barrier

There’s high-level planning taking place in the Sharon administration that’s raising concerns among Palestinians and those who are working for peace in the Middle East. "In a move that could claim more land for Israel and muddy progress on a U.S.-backed plan for Palestinian statehood, two proposals are on the table to extend a barrier separating Israel from the Palestinians," writes Paisley Dodds in a recent story for the AP. "The proposals revealed Sunday increased the amount of land the Palestinians would lose compared to previous plans, although an exact figure was not available. Israeli officials said the barriers could be demolished and moved if and when a permanent border is set for a Palestinian state. Skeptical Palestinians and human rights groups called it an illegal land grab, and said that in its new route the snaking fence would in effect dislocate more than 200,000 Palestinians, leaving them on the ‘Israeli’ side of an imposed border."

On a related front, there were a number of members of the British House of Commons yesterday who urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair to press President Bush on the issue of the Middle East peace process when the two meet later this week. "The foreign secretary [Jack Straw] promised that the ‘road map’ to a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians would be published as soon as the Palestinian authority’s new administration is in place. He revealed, however, that its first phase is a halt to the building of new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories", according to today’s Guardian.

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