Israeli Court: Non-Israeli Citizens Cannot Sue Foreign Sovereigns

Carmon & Carmon is pleased to announce a recent victory in the Israeli Labor courts on behalf of the United States government. In May of 2007, an individual who worked in Israel for the U.S was separated from his employment for cause. He therefore filed in Israel a Complaint against the United States for severance pay and the balance of unpaid wages. Though the Complaint was filed before the Law for Foreign States Immunity -2008 came into action, since there had been no hearing on the matter until after the law was enacted, the Immunity Law was determined to be applicable to this case. The Immunity Law governs issues of foreign sovereign immunity in civil proceedings before Israeli courts. Though the law covers much territory in regards to when a foreign entity is eligible for immunity, there are strict limits outlined in the law. Immunity is denied when the following items are fulfilled: the cause of action is within the exclusive jurisdiction of a Regional Labor Court, the matter at hand is labor which has been or is to be performed in Israel, and when the employee is an Israeli citizen or habitual resident of Israel.

The Plaintiff claimed that the United States should be denied immunity under these points. He submitted several letters indicating his area of residence as proof. The court then asked for the opinion of Israel’s Legal Advisor to the Government (Israel’s Attorney General) and it had agreed with the plaintiff, stating that “In view of Plaintiff’s notice….that he is a resident of the Village of Nahalin west of the Israeli fence, then the Plaintiff meets the requirements of Article 4(a)(3) of the Law, and therefore the Defendant cannot be immune.”

The United States countered, insisting that it enjoys full protection under the Immunity Law. The judge presiding over the case, the Honorable Hadas Yahalom, agreed with the United States’ position, rejecting the position of the Legal Advisor to the Government and dismissed the case with costs.

This was a case of first impression in Israel. The Labor Court is open to all, including non-Israeli citizens or residents. However, Carmon & Carmon’s attorneys were able to show that the Israeli Legislature did not intend to grant access to the Labor Court in lawsuits against foreign States if the plaintiff was not either a resident or a citizen of Israel. As an appeal was not filed, the U.S victory became final.

         
    "[Carmon & Carmon's] work for the Justice Department...has been highly professional and successful."

- U.S. Department of Justice
 
         
    "Haggai deftly handled all of the arguments [in court], and was clearly in command from the beginning. The difference in quality between our lawyer and the plaintiff’s was stark. It was like watching an excited Chihuahua yap at a seasoned Great Dane – the Chihuahua can make all the noise it wants, but the Great Dane clearly calls the shots. I wanted to emphasize how fortunate we were to have Haggai on our side today."

- A memo from a senior US diplomat to the US Department of Justice