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FAQ: Enforcing Foreign Judgments in Israel

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Is an Israeli court required to enforce a judgment from another country?

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.

What must a party that seeks enforcement of a foreign (non-Israeli) judgment prove in order for an Israeli court to enforce that judgment?

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.

What kind of procedure does the requesting party (judgment-creditor) commence to enforce a foreign judgment in Israel?

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.

What kind of certification regarding the foreign judgment is required to be filed with the Israeli court?

As a general matter, the party requesting enforcement in Israel should file a certified copy, confirmed by an Apostille.

Is it necessary to file a Hebrew translation of the foreign judgment?

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.

On the issue of the authorization (jurisdiction) of the (non-Israeli) court, how is a “federated” state (or country) treated?

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.

Is “reciprocity” a requirement under Israeli law in order for a foreign (non-Israeli) judgment to be enforced?

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.

Are foreign (non-Israeli) bankruptcy orders entitled to enforcement or recognition in Israel?

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.

What is the time period for enforcing a foreign judgment in Israel?

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.

What defenses are available under Israeli law to a judgment-debtor?

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.

Which party has the burden of proof (before the Israeli court) as to these defenses?

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.

Will an Israeli court enforce a judgment that includes punitive damages?

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.

Will an Israel court enforce a default judgment from a foreign court?

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.

Does Israeli law recognize the doctrine of implied consent to the jurisdiction of a foreign (non-Israeli) court?

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

If an Israeli party in a case before a foreign court had entered an “appearance” for the sole purpose of opposing attachment proceedings in that court, will such an appearance later be considered, by an Israeli court, to have constituted “consent” to the jurisdiction of the non-Israeli court?

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.

How open are Israeli courts to denying enforcement on the grounds that the (non-Israeli) judgment was “obtained through fraud”?

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.

How open are Israeli courts to denying enforcement on the grounds that the defendant/respondent did not have a reasonable opportunity to plead his/its case or present evidence?

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.

In connection with judgments from non-Western countries, how do Israeli courts address the contention that enforcement should be denied because of a concern that the judge in the non-Israeli court might have been bribed?

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.

What are the court costs for enforcing a foreign judgment in Israel?

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

What is the expected timetable for the adjudication in Israel of a motion to enforce a foreign judgment?

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.

Are there any venues (specific courts) in Israel in which it is better for a (non-Israeli) judgment-creditor to file its motion to enforce a foreign judgment?

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.

Will Israeli courts enforce civil judgments rendered in the context of criminal cases (such as from civil law jurisdictions)?

Some Israeli cases have enforced such foreign judgments.

Are any forms of interim relief available under Israeli law to a foreign judgment-creditor?

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.

What will a judgment-creditor be required to prove in order to be entitled to an order of attachment from an Israeli court?

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.

What will a judgment-creditor need to prove in order to be entitled to an order restricting the judgment-debtor from leaving Israel?

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.

What kind of procedural requirements are imposed upon a judgment-creditor that wishes to obtain interim relief in Israel?

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.

What form of security will an Israeli court be likely to require as a condition to ordering interim relief?

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.

If there were to be parallel jurisdiction over an Israeli defendant in both an Israeli court and a non-Israeli court, would it be advisable for a non-Israeli plaintiff (claimant) to “cut to the chase” and simply sue in Israel in order not to have to go through the process of two separate legal proceedings?

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.",

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