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Frequently Asked Questions – Enforcing (Foreign) Judgments in Israel

 
   
 

An Israeli court is not required to enforce a foreign judgment, but Israel has a relatively liberal policy, embodied in the Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law (5718-1958), concerning the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Top of Page

An Israeli court may enforce a foreign judgment if the requesting party proves each of the following:

  1. the judgment was given in a country that, under its laws, its courts are authorized (have jurisdiction) to render such a judgment;
  2. the judgment is no longer appealable (this is sometimes referred to as the “finality” rule, and it can be relaxed in connection with orders for maintenance);
  3. the debt/obligation that is the subject of the judgment is enforceable in Israel, and the content of the judgment does not contradict Israeli public policy; and
  4. the judgment is enforceable in the country in which it was rendered.
Although the Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law states that the court “may” enforce a judgment that meets the above conditions, as a practical matter, if none of the statutory defenses (see below) are proven, it is expected that the court will enforce such a judgment. Top of Page

The party seeking enforcement in Israel is required to file a “motion to enforce.” The motion itself is relatively straight-forward (and frequently short), but it must be accompanied by one or more declarations that prove the elements of enforcement, as described above. Top of Page

As a general matter, the party requesting enforcement in Israel should file a certified copy, confirmed by an ApostilleTop of Page

There is no requirement to submit a Hebrew translation, unless the Israeli court expressly orders that such a translation be filed. As a matter of course, the Israeli court will so order if the non-Israeli judgment is in a language other than English or if it is lengthy. Top of Page

Case law has held that the Israeli court should look at whether any court in the federated state (country) had jurisdiction – not necessarily whether a specific court in that state had jurisdiction. Yet the Israeli case law in this area is not well developed. Top of Page

Yes, but in order for the reciprocity requirement to be met, Israeli law merely requires that the foreign state not be one that “under its laws” would refuse to recognize an Israeli judgment. In other words, if (for example) courts in New York State sometimes enforce Israeli judgments but sometimes do not, New York State would not be considered a state that “under its laws” would refuse to recognize Israeli judgments. Top of Page

Not necessarily. Although case law has sometimes relaxed the “finality” rule with respect to orders issued in the context of non-Israeli bankruptcy proceedings, it cannot be assumed that the “finality” rule (see above) will be relaxed in every such case. Nor will it always be the case that the foreign court had jurisdiction (see below) over the persons in Israel whose interests are impaired by the non-Israeli bankruptcy order. Top of Page

As a general matter, a motion to enforce a foreign judgment may not be considered if it is filed with the Israeli court more than five years after the judgment was rendered by the non-Israeli court. Top of Page

There are five possible defenses to a motion to enforce a foreign (non-Israeli) judgment:

  1. the judgment was obtained through fraud;
  2. before the foreign judgment was rendered, the defendant did not have a reasonable opportunity in the non-Israeli court to plead his case and present his evidence;
  3. the foreign court did not have jurisdiction, as determined by Israeli private international law (conflicts of law) rules;
  4. the judgment contradicts another one concerning the same matter between the same litigants, and such judgment is still enforceable; and
  5. at the time of the filing of the lawsuit in the foreign court, a legal proceeding concerning the same matter between the same litigants was already pending in Israel.
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The judgment-debtor (respondent) has the burden of proof as to the statutory defenses; if any one of the above defences is proven, the Israeli court will not recognize the foreign judgment. Top of Page

The fact that the non-Israeli court rendered a civil judgment that included a “punitive” damages element of compensation would not make such a judgment unenforceable in Israel. Top of Page

Many Israeli courts have enforced default judgments rendered by foreign courts. Yet it is not uncommon for the Israeli judge to suggest to the parties to stipulate to cancellation of the default judgment (that had been issued by the non-Israeli court) and to return to the foreign court for “full” (or “on the merits”) adjudication – on the condition that the judgment-debtor (respondent) pay the costs that were associated (through that stage) with attempting to enforce the judgment in Israel. Top of Page

Yes, but the case law in Israel regarding the implied consent doctrine is not well developed. Top of Page

No – such an appearance before the non-Israeli court will not be considered by the Israeli court to have constituted “consent,” provided that the defendant/respondent had made clear that it was “appearing” before the foreign court solely for the purposes of opposing the request (or order) for an attachment. Top of Page

Israeli case law has made clear that the burden of proof regarding the “obtained through fraud” defense is very high. Merely challenging the credibility of the witnesses who testified before the foreign court is insufficient to prove that the judgment was obtained by fraud.

Nor would it be sufficient to argue merely that proceedings in the foreign court differed from Israeli procedure. Top of Page

Under Israeli law, the burden of proof regarding the “lack of reasonable opportunity” defense is a high one, and the standard for reasonableness is an objective one. Top of Page

Israeli courts do not assume that there is merit to such a general contention. Specifically, in 2014 the Israeli Supreme Court refused to deny enforcement of a Russian judgment based upon the general contention that judges in Russia are believed to accept bribes. Top of Page

The court filing fee for an enforcement motion is about $350, regardless of the amount of the judgment as to which enforcement is sought. Top of Page

Although there is no rule of thumb in Israel as to the number of months that it can take to adjudicate a motion to enforce a foreign judgment, the timetable is usually inversely proportional to the level of detail in the motion. In other words, the more detail in the motion to enforce, the more difficult it is (usually) for the party that opposes enforcement to attack the sufficiency of the motion papers, whereas the more skeletal the motion papers, the easier it is for the party that opposes enforcement to attack their sufficiency. The latter situation (obviously) results in lengthier proceedings. Additional factors that can prolong the adjudication of the motion to enforce include (a) the need to schedule in-person cross-examination of non-Israeli witnesses and (b) the use of interpreters for non-Israeli witnesses. Top of Page

Yes – for the non-Israeli judgment-creditor, it is preferable to file its motion to enforce in one of the three major metropolitan areas, which are Tel Aviv/Central, Jerusalem, and Haifa. Courts in those districts have substantial experience with enforcing foreign judgments, whereas many courts elsewhere have noticeably less experience with enforcement issues. Top of Page

In many cases, a judgment-creditor may be entitled to an order of attachment on assets in Israel of the judgment-debtor. In some (but far from most) cases, the judgment-creditor may be entitled to an order restricting the judgment-debtor from leaving Israel. Top of Page

The primary issue that an Israeli court will examine (in the enforcement context) is whether, absent the issuance of such an order, the ability of the judgment-creditor to collect on an eventual Israeli judgment (declaring the foreign judgment to be enforceable) would likely be impaired. Top of Page

An order restricting departure from Israel may be given in a case in which there is a substantial likelihood that the defendant will be leaving Israel, thereby rendering it difficult to adjudicate the claim against him and/or to enforce a judgment against him.

It is far from commonplace for a foreign judgment-creditor to be entitled to such an order – with the primary exceptions being in the matrimonial (or child support) context. Rarely will an Israeli court (a) issue an order restricting departure in connection with a claim of less than NIS 50,000 or (b) restrict a person who is domiciled outside of Israeli from departing the country. Top of Page

The Israeli court will, at a minimum, want to ensure that the party requesting interim relief deposits sufficient security to compensate the defendant (judgment-debtor) in the event that it turns out that (a) the order of attachment (or order restricting departure) had been improperly granted, and/or (b) the defendant (or a third party) suffered damages as a result of such order. Top of Page

At the least, an Israeli court is likely to order that the party seeking interim relief deposit two kinds of security – such as a bank guaranty and a third party guaranty. In this context, a “third party” can include a guarantor affiliated with the applicant/judgment-creditor.

The Israeli court will also require the applicant for interim relief to deposit an “undertaking” – a document pursuant to which the applicant commits to indemnify the defendant/respondent if it turns out that (a) the order of interim relief had been improperly granted, and/or (b) the defendant (or a third party) suffered damages as a result of such order. The undertaking is usually not limited in amount. Top of Page

Generally not – an Israeli defendant can raise various defenses before an Israeli court (such as language difficulties) that would probably be rejected by a non-Israeli court. (The court filing fee in Israel for most civil claims is also higher than that in many other countries.) Therefore, in most cases of parallel jurisdiction, it is advisable for the non-Israeli plaintiff to sue in its home court and then attempt to enforce a judgment in Israel. Top of Page