An Israeli government plan to fight car theft by setting up barriers along stretches of the West Bank frontier touched off a political debate on Monday over the shape of final borders with the Palestinians.

Israel's inner-security Cabinet approved a plan on Sunday for assorted natural and man-made barriers along several dozen kilometers of the 194-mile-long pre-1967 Middle East war border with the West Bank.Hawkish Cabinet ministers had opposed a continuous fence, fearing it would form a de facto border with the occupied West Bank and shape a future Palestinian state they oppose.

Left-wing legislators said even a partial barrier was a victory in their battle to establish a permanent dividing line between Israel and the Arab land it captured in 1967.

A senior police official had said publicly a fence along the entire length of the so-called "seam" between Israel and the West Bank was the best way to cut down on car theft, calling the government's decision for a partial barrier politically driven.

A record 46,000 cars were stolen in Israel in 1997, 80 percent of which were smuggled into the West Bank either past Israeli military checkpoints, where soldiers usually examine only traffic coming into Israel, or through open areas.

Yossi Sarid, head of the left-wing Meretz party, called the plan's approval the "last nail in the coffin of the illusion called the Greater Land of Israel," the term used by Jewish settlers for the West Bank.