Privatizing Israel's Legal System
Neoliberalism punishes Israelis.
by Stephen Lendman
Israel's Mandatory Arbitration Bill (MA) is troubling. Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman proposed it. It mandates compulsory arbitration for civil suits filed in Magistrate Courts.
The Court president or deputy may order it. Litigants have no say. Neeman claims it's needed to reduce excessive case loads. His hidden agenda has other things in mind. Judicial fairness will be compromised if he prevails.
On September 4, Knesset members discussed it ahead of second and third readings. Strong opposition exists. More on that below.
Arbitration is an alternate form of dispute resolution. It's common in commercial disagreements. Costly litigation is avoided. So are conventional court proceedings.
When voluntary, both sides agree to let an arbitrator or arbitral panel review evidence and impose binding rulings.
Mandatory arbitration is more controversial. It lets one party impose its will on another. In commercial disputes, companies have bargaining power at the expense of consumers. Litigation rights are denied. So are class actions. Unfair proceedings result. Outcomes may be predetermined.
Israel's MA bill lets courts forward civil suits to private lawyers. They'll become designated arbitrators. Litigants can't sue.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said this measure "has no equivalent anywhere in the world." If enacted, Israeli judicial fairness will be severely compromised.
ACRI, Israeli Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, retired justices, and prominent jurists oppose the bill for good reason.
ACRI attorney Anne Suciu calls it step one toward privatizing Israel's courts. Doing so will severely damage judicial fairness. Unlike judicial vetting, the main qualification for arbitrators is seven years seniority.
Another is the absence of frequent conflicts of interest between his or her proposed arbitral status and outside financial interests.
According to legislative language, individuals with some, but not too many, conflicts are eligible. Moreover, no limitation is placed on ones considered minor. No definition explains.
Growing criticism in some countries led to greater protection for weaker parties in arbitration disputes. Israel's measure denies it. According to Suciu: