Israeli Army Suspends Seizure of Palestinian Land to Expand West Bank Checkpoint

Land was slated to enlarge crossing point to accommodate trucks coming into Israel, but Palestinian owners sued to stop it

The Gilboa (Jalama) border crossing.
Gil Eliahu

The Israeli army has suspended a plan to seize 29 dunams (about 7 acres) of land owned by individual Palestinians near the Gilboa crossing point on the northern border of the West Bank after the owners of the land challenged the move in the High Court of Justice. The army announced on Thursday that it is looking at other alternatives, and while it examines the options, it will not carry out a seizure order issue on the land in question in October.

The army, which said its decision to look at other options is unrelated to the High Court petition, had intended to use the land to accommodate trucks loaded with rock from quarries and other construction material from the West Bank in the vicinity of the checkpoint. The checkpoint, which lies between the West Bank city of Jenin and the northern Israeli city of Afula, is currently inadequate to accommodate the trucks passing through it.

The Palestinian owners said a representative of the army toured the land with them and told them he didn’t understand their opposition, since the initiative to expand the crossing point originated with businessmen on both the Israeli and Palestinian side of the border .

On Thursday, the petitioners and the State Prosecutor’s office issued a joint statement to the court confirming the decision to suspend the seizure order. If the alternative pans out, the order may be revoked entirely, the statement said, and the Palestinian landowners will be advised if it is decided to proceed with the seizure.

“The seizure order was issued to expand the Gilboa crossing to make it possible to carry out optimal security checks for [trucks from] quarries passing through it,” the army spokesman said in a statement. “As part of a general examination taking place by defense officials, and unrelated to the petition filed in connection with the seizure order, another security alternative is being examined for moving the quarry [trucks] through the crossing point and the seizure order that was issued has been suspended,” the statement issued Tuesday said.

For his part, the landowners’ lawyer, Alaa Mahagna, said the case teaches how casually the military commander wields his authority to expropriate land for “security purposes.”