JERUSALEM — Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday gave final approval to a Jerusalem separation barrier meant to stop suicide bombers, over strident Palestinian objections and U.S. misgivings because it will isolate thousands of Palestinians.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week ordered construction of the Jerusalem segment of the barrier to be accelerated, and government ministries have until Sept. 1 to complete their preparations.
The route of the barrier around Jerusalem is particularly contentious.
It reshapes the boundaries of the disputed city _ claimed by Israelis and the Palestinians as a capital _ and dramatically changes its demographics. The barrier leaves four Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, with some 55,000 residents, on the West Bank side, while including the largest Jewish West Bank settlement, Maaleh Adumim with close to 30,000 people, on the Jerusalem side.
The fate of Jerusalem was to have been determined in talks on a final peace deal. The Palestinians say the barrier pre-empts the outcome of negotiations, and separates east Jerusalem _ the sector they claim for a capital _ from its West Bank hinterland.
Israel has portrayed the barrier as a temporary security measure, to keep out Palestinian bombers and gunmen. The United States says Israel has the right to defend itself, but should minimize hardship to Palestinians in drawing the barrier route.