By DAN IZENBERG
The Knesset Law Committee on Monday approved for first reading a private member's bill that would obligate the Israel Bar Association to provide free legal services for the poor.
The bill was drafted by Likud MK Yariv Levin and the chairman of the Israel Bar, Yori Geiron. According to the Israel Bar, it is the first time in the state's history that the Bar itself has initiated legislation to provide free legal services at its own expense.
The legislation was backed by the Bar's executive branch, its central committee.
The amendment to the Israel Bar Law is to be included in Article 2, which defines its mandatory responsibilities and states that "the Bar will provide legal aid to the poor."
In recent years, the Bar has run a voluntary legal aid program called "Sachar Mitzva" (the reward of fulfilling a commandment).
According to the Israel Bar, the bill "will guarantee the continuation and expansion of the program."
According to an addition to the amendment inserted by the Law Committee, the Bar will establish the criteria for determining who is entitled to free legal aid from the Bar.
The Justice Ministry has its own legal and criminal aid services for those who cannot afford private representation.
"The law profession is not just a profession but also has a social mission, and one of its aims is to enable increased accessibility to the judicial system as a basic right," Geiron said.
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