Enforcing Foreign Judgments in Israel

Among the thousands of judgments handed down each year in Israeli courts, there are a number of judgments handed down by courts in foreign countries that are directed against defendants located in Israel and who have been declared enforceable by the Israeli courts. The question, is whether a defendant can be sued in Israel on the basis of a judgment handed down against him in a foreign country? If the answer to this is positive, the question arises is how can the foreign ruling be enforced in Israel?

“The Israeli Foreign Judgments Enforcement law – 1958”, is the law that regulates the enforcement of foreign judgments in Israel. The Law defines a “foreign judgment” as a “ruling issued by a court in a foreign state in a civil matter”. meaning noncriminal and matters not within public law. The law regulates the preconditions required to enforce a foreign judgment, the enforcement restrictions, and the defenses against enforcement, to which a defendant against whom an application for enforcement of the foreign judgment is filed may claim.

The foreign court has no jurisdiction or legal validity of its own in Israel, even if it is legally ok in all aspects, and the court abroad was authorized to give him. Because of that, the foreign court must pass a judicial “absorption” process in Israel.

The Preconditions Required for Enforcement in Foreign Judgment in an Israeli court

Firstly, the judgment is to be given by a judiciary which holds jurisdiction on the matter (according to the law within its own jurisdiction).

Secondly, the judgment is final and 60 days have passed, meaning it can no longer be overruled by a higher court. An exception to the rule stipulates court may, if it considers that the circumstances of the case justify it doing so, enforce a foreign provisional judgment or interim order in a matter of maintenance even though such judgment or order may still be appealable.

Thirdly, the obligation according to the foreign judgment is enforceable according to Israeli law. This means, vis a vis, that the judgment must be in accordance with Public policy, and it cannot be illegal nor immoral. In CA 1137/93, Gertrude (Yael) Ashkar v. Timon Himes, the Supreme Court of Israel held that public policy in this context is “an external public regulation” and is concerned with “the principles, views and interests of society and the state, which are so fundamental and so basic that we shall see to reject binding foreign judgments ”

Finally, the judgment must be doable in the jurisdiction in which it was given.

Restrictions on enforcement of foreign judgments in Israeli courts.

section 4 of the foreign enforcement law, determine that “A foreign judgment shall not be declared enforceable if it is given in a state under whose laws the decisions of the courts in Israel are not enforced”. It means that for a judgment to be enforced by an Israeli court, the jurisdiction which it was given by is to enforce judgments made by Israeli courts. Still, a deviation from the reciprocity rule is permitted; court may respond to a general attorney’s request for enforcing a judgment even when it was made by a jurisdiction which does not enforce judgments made by Israeli courts.

The Court will not respond nor deliberate upon a request for enforcing a foreign judgment which was submitted over five years after the judgment was given. This is unless a different time period was agreed upon by Israel and the jurisdiction in which the judgment was given. Another exception to the rule is where the Israeli court finds special circumstances which justify the delay in submitting the Israeli petition for enforcement.

Firstly, a judgment which was given as a result of deceit will not be

rendered enforceable.

Secondly, a judgment will not be rendered enforceable if it is in the opinion of the court that the defendant was not given a reasonable possibility to argue its claims or present its evidence before the verdict was made.

Thirdly, the judgment is to be given by a judiciary which holds jurisdiction on the matter according to the rules of international law which apply in Israel.

Fourthly, the judgment cannot stand in contradiction with another judgment given in the same matter between the same parties that is still valid. Furthermore, it cannot stand where at the time the action was brought before the foreign court a suit in the same matter and between the same parties was pending before a Court or a Tribunal in Israel.

Finally, a foreign judgment will not be declared enforceable if its enforcement is likely to prejudice the sovereignty or security of Israel.

A foreign judgment which has been declared enforceable will, for the purposes of execution, have the effect of a judgment validly given in Israel.

Enforcement of foreign judgments in the eyes of the court in Israel

It can be said that, in general, the interpretation of the courts in deciding whether or not to declare a particular ruling as a circumstance is broad and has in the past been referred to as “enforcement interpretation,” means an interpretation that did not make it easier for the defendants to refrain from enforcing foreign judgments . Thus, for example, in several judgments, the arguments of defendants who tried to rely on the restriction that they were given the opportunity to defend themselves and to present their arguments and evidence were rejected. These defendants claimed various problems and difficulties in delivering delivery permits and other documents. In response, the courts chose not to respond to the defendants’ requests to reject the enforcement requests, did not examine the formal aspects of the serving, and determined that it was “by the book” and that the defendants knew about the proceedings in order to deny them the possibility of relying on this exception

Recognition of authority on behalf of the defendant in the Israeli court

According to the rules of private international law that apply in Israel, a claim on the legal issue of the case (arguments on the matter of the dispute) before the court is the same as to agree to the court’s authority to hear the legal matter. However, it is important to note in this matter that the Israeli law, recognizes a number of cases in which a defendant will not be considered to have agreed to the jurisdiction of a court against whom he issued. The defended can claim one or more of the following:

1. Infidelity of the foreign court’s authority

2. The cancellation or delay of the proceeding for transferring the dispute to arbitration or to a decision of a court in another country.

3. Release of assets seized or expected to be seized or protected.

1 The Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law – 1958, s 11.
2 The Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law – 1958, s 2.
3 The Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law – 1958, s 3.
4 The Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law – 1958, s 8.
5 The Contracts (General Part) Law – 1973, s 30.
6 The Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law – 1958, s 4.
7 The Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law – 1958, s 5.
8 The Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law – 1958, s 6-7.
9 The Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law – 1958, s 10.

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