The World Bank said that it supports building a passage which links between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in a form of a sunken road, but Sharon said that he prefers to construct a railway because it would make “managing security” issues easier.

Israeli online daily Haaretz reported on Friday, that the United States will finance a study which is intended to examine the options of linking the West Bank with Gaza.

The study will be completed on January 2006, Israeli’s response to the study will indicate its intentions regarding a Palestinian independent state with geographical contiguity, a senior Israeli diplomatic source said.

The World Bank asked the United States to sponsor the project, but said it expects Israeli objections to the conclusion on the study.

Haaretz reported that Israel approved the study initiative last week; the approval came during a meeting between World Bank director for the West Bank and Gaza, Nigel Roberts, and Baruch Spiegel, an adviser to the Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz.

The U.S conditioned the funding of the project on the agreement of the Palestinians and Israelis.

The study will examine several aspects, such as a multilane road, elevated road, and a railway which connects the Eretz Crossing in Gaza with Tarqoumia checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Hebron.

The planned passage will be under Palestinian control.

In 2001, several months after the Intifada had started, Israel prepared a report which recommended building a road between Gaza and the West Bank; the road will be partly at ground level, underground and elevated.

The United States, Israel and the P.A held talks on the passage road, P.A officials said that they are concerned that the Gaza pullout, unilaterally carried by Israel, would lead to a separation between Gaza and the West Bank, and demanded a transit passage between them.

Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, and the Middle East Quartet envoy, James Wolfensohn, discussed the possibility of opening what was described as “an experimental passage” from Gaza to the West Bank.

Wolfensohn, who arrived in the area on Thursday, intends to hold individual meetings on Friday with Mofaz, Dov Weissglas, and the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.

He will also be meeting, in the coming few days, with the Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres, and Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmad Qurei.

Operating the Rafah border crossing will be one of the important issues on the agenda, and talks on operating crossings between the P.A and Israel.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials met in order to discuss the Egyptian proposal to have the P.A and Egypt operate the crossing under the supervision of a third party. Yet, even if Israel does not directly supervise the Crossing, it will be able to monitor it through surveillance cameras and other advanced systems to transfer information to the Israeli Security Services, Shin Bet.