The ruling Likud party in Israel has begun building more Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
And it has now announced the plan to construct new roads in the areas, prompting condemnation from Palestinians and left wing Israelis.
In the first indication of the new Israeli government's settlement policies, hard-line Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon ordered two new highways to be built in the West bank.
The plan calls for one road leading from the West Bank into northern Jerusalem and a second linking central Israel with Jewish settlements inside the West Bank, where some 140-thousand Jews live among 1-point-2 million Palestinians.
The plan, expected to cost about 50 (m) million dollars (U-S), was originally proposed under the previous Labour government, but was never carried out.
We are working according to plan. I know that yesterday everyone got nervous. I don't why they got nervous.
SUPER CAPTION: Ariel Sharon, Minister for Infrastructure
The move has angered Palestinians who want to establish a state in the West bank and Gaza. They say expanding settlements violates the Israel-PLO peace accords and could bring the precarious peace process to a grinding halt.
On Tuesday the Palestinian Legislative Council held a special session to discuss the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and around Jerusalem.
Palestinians predict violence and bloodshed.
When they are going to confiscate my future, my water, my land. What does this mean? It's a declaration of war and war means a bloodbath.
SUPER CAPTION: Freih Abu Medein, Palestinian Justice Minister.
Israel's past government curbed settlement construction, except around Jerusalem, in order to open the doors for peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
The Israel-PLO peace agreement says neither side will "initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," pending the outcome of final status talks.
The Palestinians say that rules out new settlement construction or expansion.
Peace Now, a group that supports the Middle East peace process, warned against the dangers of Israel building more settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
"There can be no doubt that the settlements have been always and
will be in the future an obstacle for any peace solution. The only solution that can exist between Israel and the Palestinians is to partition this land into two different sovereignties. The Palestinians will need a certain area where they will have their own sovereignty.
SUPER CAPTION: Mordechai Baron, Peace Now member
Sharon, a leader of the hardline right-wing faction in the governing Likud Party, oversaw a massive construction drive in the settlements when he was housing minister from 1990-1992.
Last year, as part of the Oslo peace accords and under the previous government, rural areas of the West Bank were passed to Palestinian control, while Israel maintained overall responsibility for security throughout most of the West Bank.