Ministry of Justice
29 Salah A-Din St., 91010 Jerusalem
Tel. (02) 6708511
Fax: (020 6288618
Website: http://www.justice.gov.il/ (Hebrew)
Functions and Structure
The Minister of Justice heads the Ministry of Justice and is responsible to the Knesset for the Ministry and the courts system. The Ministry has two main areas of activity. The first involves public prosecutions, legislation, and legal advice. Professional responsibility for this area is borne by the Attorney-General, who is legal advisor to the Government and head of the country's judicial system. He is assisted by the Legal Advice and Legislation Divisions, as well as by the Public Prosecutor's Office.
The Ministry's second area of activity involves administration, registration, and supervision of property and other rights. This area is handled by the Ministry's Director-General, who is responsible to the Minister for the activities of all the Ministry's divisions, including land registration and land settlement, companies, partnerships, business names, patents, copyrights, trademarks and designs, Administrator General's Department, land evaluation, accountants, appraisers, and databases.
The Ministry's other divisions deal with the judicial system: legal aid, pardons, law library, translations, and registration of claims by Jews from Arab countries.
The Attorney-General is the head of the public prosecution system as well as the chief legal advisor to all governmental bodies and agencies. He also heads the teams that draft Government-initiated legislation. Legal advice is provided on an ongoing basis to the Government, cabinet ministers, and the various governmental agencies. The Attorney-General issues guidelines for the entire legal service, in order to guarantee consistency and coordination in the legal policies of all ministries and agencies.
Legal proceedings to which the State is party take place on various levels. The Attorney-General and his representatives, the State Attorney, and local prosecutors represent the State in criminal and civil proceedings, as well as in appeals to the High Court of Justice. The Attorney-General is assisted by three main categories of jurists: those involved in advice, research, and legal guidance; state attorneys who prosecute cases and represent the State in the courts; and those who draft legislation.
The Attorney-General has expanded his activities in the fields of the quality of life and consumer protection, and of advice and assistance to the local authorities. In the latter realm, his office handles many requests dealing with planning and construction laws, licensing of businesses, and restrictive contractual provisions.
The Attorney-General is the respondent in the Standard Contracts Tribunal to suppliers' applications for approval of their contract forms. He applies to the same tribunal to nullify unfair and prejudicial clauses in standard contracts.
The Attorney-General has become the permanent address in cases of disagreements between different branches of the government or between administrative agencies. His rulings and decisions are accepted by all parties.
The Attorney-General also deals with complaints from the general public, thus helping to broaden the rule of law and correct administration.
The Legal Advice Department renders legal opinions to the Government, Prime Minister, government ministries, and public and government corporations. Most of the Department's activities are carried out in response to requests by the Government, ministries, and various government institutions. However, the Department also approaches various government bodies on its own initiative in order to maintain and strengthen the rule of law. The Department deals with civil petitions for assistance from the Justice Ministry and intervenes in cases where it believes that an unlawful action has been perpetrated. The Department also handles numerous requests for legal opinions on the actions and operations of government ministries.
The Department provides assistance and guidance to the legal advisors of government ministries and other public bodies, and issues opinions in cases of variant interpretations of legal situations between ministries, or between ministries and government corporations.
The Department is laying the legal foundations for legislation about communications and white-collar crime, and issues legal advice about the application of existing legislation in these fields. The Department also carries out research with the goal of paying more fundamental judicial attention to matters and planning of Ministry policy. In addition, the Department is preparing the initial foundations for future legislation in various areas.
State Attorney's Office
The State Attorney's Office represents the State and its agencies in all criminal, civil, and administrative matters in all judicial instances. State attorneys also represent the State before various tribunals and committees, including labor courts, Civil Service disciplinary courts, the Bar Association disciplinary court, and the Arbitration Institute. In addition to the aforementioned duties, State Attorneys also serve on legislative and legal advisory committees.
The powers of the State Attorney's Office and its role in criminal cases are laid down by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Consolidated Text) 5741-1982. The State Attorney's Office is headed by the State Attorney. It comprises a central bureau and eight regional offices: Jerusalem District, Southern District, Tel Aviv District (Criminal), Tel Aviv District (Civil), Central District, Haifa District, Northern District, and the Tax and Fiscal Offenses District. A District Attorney has the authority to initiate proceedings against any person against whom there is sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution, unless it is his belief that there is no public interest in so doing.
The State Attorney's Office also represents the State in all civil disputes to which the State is a party. The Civil Matters Section of the State Attorney's Office also defends the public interest in cases of adoption and guardianship.
The activities of the Legislation Department in clude the following:
- professional legal guidance and supervision of the legislation-drafting activities of government ministries;
- initiating legislation on topics within the Ministry's purview, or which have been assigned to the Ministry by the Government;
- monitoring the parliamentary progress of draft legislation to ensure that it moves forward;
- examining the legal implications of private member's bills submitted to the Knesset and making recommendations about such bills to the Minister of Justice;
- ensuring stylistic uniformity in draft legislation;
- participation as representatives of the Attorney-General in the debates of ministerial and Knesset committees when draft legislation is under discussion.
Secondary Legislation: The official with responsibility for secondary legislation examines the lawfulness of secondary legislation proposed or submitted for publication, with regard to the powers vested in the promulgating agency or authority by enabling statutes, and assists in the preparation and wording of regulations, orders, administrative provisions, announcements, appointments, and local by-laws. The head of this Service also provides advice and guidance to ministries, government agencies, and others on the preparation of such material, and sees to the publication of material to be published in Reshumot (the official government gazette), Qovetz ha-taqanot (collection of regulations), including tax regulations and local by-laws, and Yalqut ha-pirsumim (the official announcements and advertisements gazette).
Land Registration and Land Settlement Department
The Department concentrates on the following areas:
- administering the various land registers;
- endorsing land transactions and other activities and recording them in the land registries;
- recording dwellings in the condominium register and providing other related services;
- rendering decisions in disputes between apartment owners in condominiums;
- settling landed property rights within the country.
Administration of Land Registration Records
Land is recorded in three types of registers: deed registers, title registers, and condominium registers.
Deed Registers record land on which proprietary rights have not yet been settled, pursuant to the Settlement of Land Rights Ordinance (Consolidated Text) 5729-1969. Registration in the Deed Register, in the case of land not duly settled, is prima facie evidence under the law for its substance. After settlement of land title, the record in the Deed Register is annulled, and title is recorded in the Title Register.
Title Registers contain records of land for which proprietary rights have been settled following official surveying and mapping, as well as an official public clarification of title claims. In the case of land which has been settled, inclusion in the Title Register is conclusive legal evidence for its substance. From 1928, when land title settlement activities commenced, through the end of December 1988, the title of 94% of Israel's land area was settled, so that Title Registers now include most of the country. As title settlement activities proceed, the Deed Registers shrink, with a concomitant expansion in Title Registers.
Condominium Registers contain records of apartments in buildings for which registration orders have been issued on the basis of blueprints describing the buildings and their apartments.
All three types of land registers are administered in the nine Land Registry Offices, located in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Petah Tiqva, Natanya, Nazareth, Beersheva, Holon, and Rehovot.
Land Valuation Department
This Department is responsible for producing a valuation for all land transactions involving the State or a state institution. Its head is the Chief Government Valuation Officer. In addition to the Jerusalem headquarters there are three district offices, in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, with a district valuation officer stationed in each. The Jerusalem office is responsible for the Department's activities in Beersheva and the Judea and Samaria Districts; the Tel Aviv office is responsible for Tel Aviv and the center of the country; the Haifa office handles Haifa and the North.
The requirement that government ministries make use of the government valuation officer's services is laid down in a Government decision, directives of the Justice and Finance Ministers, and the Finance and Economy Regulations (Takam). The Chief Government Valuation Officer is the official authorized by the Government to appraise land that a ministry intends to purchase, lease, expropriate, sell, let, or rent. The ministries and government agencies that require the services of the department are chiefly the Israel Lands Administration, the Administrator-General, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Construction and Housing, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Transport Ministry, the Finance Ministry (Central Housing Committee), and the Agriculture Ministry. In addition to the aforementioned duties, the Chief Government Valuation Officer and directors of the Department's offices act as advisors in land management and in eviction, purchase, and expropriation activities.
The Department is an autonomous and professional body, making independent decisions, with a high level of expertise and vast experience in all matters relating to land transactions. Department employees sit on committees of various government ministries as ex-officio members, observers, and land-affairs advisors. The Department's appraisals, on the order of three billion sheqels a year, have far-reaching implications for all the economic activity related to construction and land transactions in Israel.
Department of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks
The Patent Office ensures legal protection for intellectual and industrial property, and in particular issues patents and registers designs and trademarks following an examination of their eligibility for exclusive rights. The Office provides the public with information and guidance on matters relating to patents, designs, and trademarks. The importance of this role has expanded in light of the increasing number of local patent applications and the growing interest in all matters related to intellectual and industrial property rights. Given the significant influence that patents have on industry, there is a growing need to ensure adequate examination. The Office also runs a library and publication services dealing with patents, designs, and trademarks. It maintains ties with international organizations engaged in the protection of industrial property rights and involved with the legal questions raised by technology transfers (WIPO, UNESCO, UNCTAD, UNIDO, etc.). The Office also provides advice on copyright and other matters related to intellectual and industrial property rights.
Israel participates in all activities of the World Intellectual Property Organization and the UN Commission for Trade and Development, including the international working group drafting a model law for developing countries, covering inventions and know-how; the special UNCTAD committee preparing an international code to govern technology transfers to developing countries; and the diplomatic conference revising the Paris Convention on the protection of industrial property.
Registrar of Companies, Partnerships, and Business Names
The activities of this department are grounded in three Mandatory ordinances: the Companies Ordinance, the Partnership Ordinance, and the Registration of Business Names Ordinance. Directives found in other legislation - including the Stamp Duty Law, the Securities Law, and the Encouragement of Capital Investments Law - assign various duties and obligations to the department. These laws, and in particular the aforementioned ordinances, govern the right to organize as an independent legal entity.
The law on incorporation lays down the principle of public disclosure in all matters related to corporate registration and requires companies to report to the Registrar on activities related to their structure.
Administrator-General and Official Receiver
The Department's activities are divided into seven main areas: locating and administering abandoned property, in accordance with the Administrator-General Law 5738-1978; carrying out the duties of the Official Receiver, in accordance with the Bankruptcy Ordinance and the Companies' Ordinance; representing the Attorney-General in civil and religious courts in legal proceedings pursuant to the Inheritance Law and the Legal Competence and Guardianship Law; auditing the reports filed with the department by guardians and estate executors, and fulfilling the duties of the latter in special cases; carrying out legal actions that cannot be delayed concerning the property of hospitalized mental patients who have no legal guardian; coordinating government handling of bequests to the State, in Israel and abroad; and supervising public trusts, in accordance with the Trusteeship Law. A number of laws entrust the Administrator-General with additional duties, whose common denominator is normally concern for the property of those unable to administer it themselves - whether because their identity or whereabouts are unknown, because of personal disabilities, or other reasons. The department comprises a directorate, headquartered in Jerusalem, and four regional offices: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beersheva.
Many hospitalized mental patients in Israel have various property rights but are for obvious reasons unable to manage their property. If no guardian has been appointed or is acting for such patients, the Administrator-General, pursuant to the existing law on mental patients, can implement urgent actions related to such property. Since this does not resolve the problem, a public fund, organized as a charitable trust, has been established at the initiative of the Administrator-General; the courts can designate it the trustee for these patients if required. The Administrator-General supervises and controls this fund, to which frequent recourse is had by the courts and other institutions and agencies involved in the care of such persons.
Representing the Attorney-General: The law authorizes the Attorney-General to intervene in all proceedings involving inheritance if he deems that the public interest is involved, as well as in all proceedings under the Legal Competence and Guardianship Law, in cases involving minors, the mentally ill, and missing persons. Members of the Administrator-General's office represent the Attorney-General in such proceedings whenever property matters are involved.
The Official Receiver implements court-ordered bankruptcy and liquidation proceedings. His powers are stipulated by law, and he works in conjunction with all district courts. At certain stages he functions as a liquidator or trustee, whether permanently or on a temporary basis, until another can be appointed to these tasks.
Registrar of Databases
This official is appointed by the Government, and acts pursuant to the Privacy Protection Law 5741-1981. He is charged with registering databases that include vital statistics on individuals and the purposes for which the information is destined, such as: details on an individual's personality, personal status, morals, health, economic situation, professional training, beliefs, and opinions. The Registrar may refuse to register a database that is a cover for unlawful activities. The Registrar is entitled to enter all databases and their related facilities and supervise the right of access to information.
The Protection of Privacy Law (Amendment) 5745-1985 permits public agencies to pass on information in order to comply with a law or in the context of the powers or duties of the transmitter and/or recipient of the information, or if the recipient of the information is a public agency legally entitled to request such information from any other source. If a public agency receives such information on a regular basis, it must notify the Registrar accordingly, and this fact will be included in the database registry.
The Privacy Protection Regulations (Conditions for Data Storage and Transfer of Information among Public Agencies) 5746-1986 stipulate that the manager of a database is responsible for taking measures to safeguard the information in a database. At the initiative of the Justice Minister, a public council for the protection of privacy has been set up. The council advises the Minister on legislative matters related to the Protection of Privacy Law and its subsidiary regulations and orders, sets guidelines for the protection of computerized databases, and guides the Registrar of Databases in his work.
Legal Aid Bureau
Three regional offices, in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, provide free legal assistance at government expense to those in need of legal assistance, advice or representation at the bar who are unable to afford an attorney. This is pursuant to the Legal Aid Law 5732-1972 and the Legal Aid Representatives Regulations 5733-1973. These stipulate that any resident of Israel may receive legal assistance (through municipal welfare offices or directly from the Legal Aid Bureau of the Justice Ministry) provided that he or she qualifies under the economic criteria laid down therein.
Legal aid is provided in: matters of personal status; prosecuting and defending suits related to rights to dwelling-places; fiscal matters (e.g., bankruptcy); civil torts; matters in the competence of the Labor Courts; suits filed in accordance with amendments concerning pension rights, grants, rehabilitation, and other rights of the disabled and survivors; all suits involving the rights of demobilized soldiers; suits involving the Law of Return and Citizenship and Population Registry Laws; and registration of businesses, trades, or professions, as provided for by law.
Pursuant to a May, 1977, amendment to the National Insurance Law, any (non-corporate) applicant will receive legal assistance in proceedings in the Labor Court to which the National Insurance Institute is a party by virtue of that law or some other legislation mandating payments by the NII, except for proceedings instituted by the NII for payment of premiums or against employers for non-registration or non-payment of premiums. This assistance is provided at the expense of the NII, through the Legal Aid Bureaus, regardless of the applicant's ability to pay the costs of the service.
Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs