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As foreign investors warn over Israel’s future, ratings firm accused of anti-Israel bias says it’s not worried — for now

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(JTA) — As much of the financial world increasingly eyes political developments in Israel with concern, a company that specializes in assessing investments based on social responsibility criteria made a special announcement Wednesday in which it declared Israel “a low-risk country.” 

That designation is both a signal to investors that they are unlikely to get entangled in human rights abuses or other scandals if they put their money in Israel, and a reassurance intended for pro-Israel advocates who have accused the company of bias against Israel. 

The announcement from the multibillion-dollar Chicago-based financial research firm Morningstar is the latest entry in a debate about how companies around the world should regard the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One side says that Israel should be treated as regular Western democracy and the other says that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians should put the country in the class of authoritarian regimes. 

But another debate about Israel’s investment worthiness has emerged in recent months following the election of a new Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, whose slim parliamentary majority relies on the support of parties with far-right platforms. 

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has vowed to overhaul Israel’s judicial system and rein in the independence of the courts. Many financial analysts consider a weakened judiciary a red flag for investors. 

Sarah Wirth, a spokesperson for Morningstar, said that its analysis designating Israel a low-risk country does not yet account for recent developments in Israel.

“Some of the changes developing in Israel may impact their Country Risk Rating once we incorporate them into our analysis,” Wirth wrote in an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in reference to the judicial reform plan. 

The latest warning about Israel’s place in the global economy emerged Friday with the leak of an internal report written by JPMorgan, one of the largest banks in the world. 

The report compared Israel to Poland, which passed a similar judicial reform in 2016 and saw a downgrade to its credit rating, which was a major blow because national credit ratings can either attract or drive away investments from abroad. 

JPMorgan analysts wrote that Israel’s credit rating still “stands comfortably in the investment grade bucket” but that Netanyahu’s plan could cause it to go down.

The report adds to a warning by another Wall Street giant, Goldman Sachs, which said last week that the Israeli shekel could be affected by “growing concern over domestic political developments.”

“The five most recent elections over the past three-year period have had typically limited read-through to financial markets,” Goldman Sachs economist Tadas Gedminas wrote in a report. “This is not to say that the current situation could not have a more meaningful impact this time around, and we will closely monitor ongoing developments.”

Netanyahu has rejected criticism of his judicial plan by saying that the proposed reforms are being misrepresented by his critics and that they would merely bring Israel’s courts in line with courts in other Western countries. The plan would limit the ability of the Supreme Court to rule laws and government actions as unconstitutional, give the government control over the appointments of new judges and end the independence of the position of legal advisor across various government offices, among other measures. 

Netanyahu has also said that regardless of the warnings by analysts, international investors are excited about Israel and eager to acquire equity in Israeli companies. His latest pronouncement came from France where he said he met with 60 local business leaders. 

“What they’re saying about investors running away is nonsense,” Netanyahu said. “We want to increase our investments in Israel.”

Some of Israel’s own business leaders are concerned enough about the country’s direction that they are choosing to decamp. The CEO of tech company Verbit, which was valued at $2 billion in 2021, announced Tuesday that he would leave the country to avoid paying millions in taxes as a protest of the judicial overhaul plan. 

“Over the past few years, I’ve paid tens of millions of dollars in taxes and my company has paid hundreds of millions in taxes,” Verbit CEO Tom Livne said on Israel’s Channel 12. He encouraged others in Israel’s vaunted tech sector to do the same. 

Livne’s announcement comes about a week after two Israeli tech firms, including one that was valued at $3.7 billion in 2021, said they would withdraw assets from Israel for the same reason. 


The post As foreign investors warn over Israel’s future, ratings firm accused of anti-Israel bias says it’s not worried — for now appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

PHYLLIS POLLOCK

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary

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By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre


Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station

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This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.


The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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