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Hard-liner Bezalel Smotrich was just put in charge of Israel’s settlements. Here’s what that means.

(JTA) – Last week, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich got one of his longtime wishes: authority over the civilian life of settlers, and some Palestinians, in the West Bank. The role is a chance for Smotrich, a right-wing firebrand and staunch advocate of annexing settlements to Israel, to mold the territory according to his ideology. 

But this week, the perils of the job also became clear: After a Palestinian gunman shot and killed two Israelis in the village of Huwara on Sunday, a mob of settlers rampaged in the village, burning cars and buildings and injuring residents

In the days following, at least publicly, Smotrich has appeared conflicted over his response to the riots. He liked a tweet calling to “wipe out” the village, then issued his own tweet addressed to his “settler brothers” decrying the rampaging. Then he shared a third set of tweets that endorsed collective punishment — but not through mob violence — and compared the riot to nonviolent protests in Tel Aviv. 

Later in the week, he sympathized with the rioters and their goal. On Tuesday, he published a lengthy Facebook post in which he called the rioters “a small group whose patience ran out and who acted inappropriately.” Part of him, he wrote, wanted “to identify with the pain and the anger and the feeling that it’s impossible to sit quietly any longer.”

On Wednesday, a journalist asked him to explain why he liked the tweet calling for the village to be “wiped out.” “Because I think the village of Huwara should be wiped out, I think that the state of Israel should do it.” A few hours later, he again walked back his statement: “To remove any doubt, in my words I did not mean wiping out the village of Huwara, but rather acting in a targeted way against terrorists and supporters of terror, and exacting a heavy price from them in order to return security to local residents.”

Sunday’s violence points to the contentious issues Smotrich will have to handle in his new role, coping with escalating violence as he and his partners seek to reshape life in the West Bank. 

Both Smotrich and his ideological foes are portraying his new job as the harbinger of a sea change in the territory — one that will expand the settlements and make them more entrenched. Meanwhile, the current Israeli government, which includes Smotrich and his far-right allies, has promised to build and recognize more settlements.

“The transfer of civilian authority over the settlements to us, and the beginning of the process of normalizing settlements, are also a great and strategic achievement,” he wrote in the Facebook post on Tuesday. “Even if it takes time to ripen and change the rudder of the ship, it will lead, God willing, to a dramatic change.”

Here’s a rundown of who Smotrich is, what his new job involves, how it fits in with the Israeli government’s settlement plans, and what his limits are. 

Who is Bezalel Smotrich, and what job did he just receive?

Smotrich, 43, is himself a settler and has served in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, for nearly eight years. During that time, he’s been one of the most right-wing lawmakers in Knesset, and has faced blowback for comments denigrating Arab women and the LGBTQ community. 

He has also spent years calling for the annexation of settlements and proposing legislation to that effect, to no avail. But his fortunes changed last year, when his party, Religious Zionism, won 14 seats, becoming the Knesset’s third-largest party. 

The coalition agreement the party signed in December with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledges to give Smotrich authority over civilian life in the settlements. Governing all aspects of civilian life in the settlements is currently the province of Defense Minister Yoav Galant, and he and Smotrich clashed over the past couple of months. 

Smotrich made clear he was impatient to assume the new role, and was worried Netanyahu was balking. “Defense minister Galant’s disavowal of the unequivocal agreement, and the prime minister’s foot-dragging on the matter are unacceptable and will not be allowed to continue,” he wrote on Twitter on Feb. 15.

But Netanyahu fulfilled the coalition agreement on Thursday, and in a deal signed by Netanyahu, Smotrich and Galant, Smotrich was handed authority over day-to-day affairs in the settlements. He tweeted that the deal entailed “A holiday for the residents of Judea and Samaria,” the Israeli government’s term for the West Bank. 

Does that mean Smotrich is about to annex the settlements to Israel?

No. The agreement explicitly counts out annexation, and Smotrich was at pains in December to assure Americans, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, that annexation was not happening in the immediate future.

But Smotrich is now in charge of life in Area C of the West Bank, which makes up the bulk of the territory. All of the Israeli settlements are in Area C, where Israel has full control over civilian affairs. (The Palestinian Authority governs civilian life in Areas A and B, which comprise 40% of the West Bank and include the majority of the territories’ Palestinians.) 

That is why critics of Netanyahu’s government are claiming that an annexation plan is at the heart of Netanyahu’s agreement with Smotrich. Michael Sfard, a prominent Israeli human rights lawyer, wrote that Smotrich is now effectively “the governor of the West Bank,” because he will be able to largely erase legal boundaries between the settlements and Israel’s recognized borders.

“Today the government of Israel has taken an action which entails de jure annexation of the West Bank,” wrote in posts on social media. “Transferring powers to Israeli civilian hands is an act of de jure annexation because it entails removing power from the occupying military and placing it directly in the hands of the government — this is an expression of sovereignty.”

Who’s in charge of Israel’s West Bank policy?

The particulars of the new arrangement in the West Bank, according to the deal signed on Thursday, are complex and a bit confusing. Smotrich is responsible for land use by Israelis and Palestinians in Area C, but it’s not clear if he has authority over Palestinian freedom of movement into and out of the area. His full responsibilities are listed in annexes not made  public. The military, meanwhile, retains the authority to evacuate illegally built settlement outposts, though Smotrich may be able to stall that process.

That means it’s not clear who’s on top, except for a provision that makes Netanyahu the arbiter of any disputes between Smotrich and Galant, or Smotrich and the military.

The agreement does pledge to erase divisions between Israel and the Jewish settlements. It says Smotrich will launch an initiative called “Equality of Citizenship” that will “improve and streamline services in Judea and Samaria” through Israeli government ministries — that is, not via the military that has been in charge of such matters for more than half a century.

How is the U.S. responding?

The Biden administration, which has otherwise maintained friendly engagement with Netanyahu’s new government, had reportedly  pressured him to renege on the new job for Smotrich. Biden officials found an ally on that issue in Israel’s defense establishment, which also was loath to hand over any degree of control to Smotrich, Axios reported.

And confusion in the chain of command when it comes to dismantling settlements may prompt the Biden administration to intervene, said Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

“The critical issues that we need to look at, they’re happening all over the place, whether it’s the transfer of authority from the Minister of Defense to Minister Smotrich for control over the civil administration, whether it’s the regularization of these outposts or their legalization,” said Kurtzer, who was speaking in a Zoom call last week organized by the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

Criticism also came from Israel’s opposition. Benny Gantz, a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff, tweeted out a confusing flow chart of the new division of responsibilities between Smotrich and Galant.

“This doesn’t look like a chain of command,” he wrote. “This looks like a labyrinth that endangers Israel’s security.”

What’s next?

Smotrich has already said he plans to accelerate the building of Jewish settlements and limit building by Palestinians in Area C. Palestinians say they build without permits in the area because the Israeli authorities rarely grant building permits. That’s unlikely to change now.

On Tuesday, Smotrich pledged that an illegal settlement that has repeatedly been dismantled will be rebuilt and recognized by the government. And his first comment after the agreement was reached was to reiterate his pledge to limit Palestinian rights.

He said, “We will act with determination to stop the illegal Arab takeover of open lands in Judea and Samaria.”


The post Hard-liner Bezalel Smotrich was just put in charge of Israel’s settlements. Here’s what that means. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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