Amid Backlash, Netanyahu Says Israel Will Not Pass Bill to Jail Christians For Proselytizing

Chris Menahan
Mar. 22, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday on Twitter that Israel "will not advance any law against the Christian community," an apparent reference to Knesset members Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher's bill to ban preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ with jail time.

"We will not advance any law against the Christian community," Netanyahu said.

As All Israel News reported, the bill would punish those preaching the Gospel with one year in jail if they were proselytizing an adult or two years in prison if they were proselyting a minor.

Israel currently bans Christians from proselytizing minors and Netanyahu has made zero effort to repeal that law.

Moshe Gafni, one of the authors of the bill, put out a statement on Wednesday where he ran from his own bill and claimed it was meaningless and "not relevant."

Notably, Gafni said the bill was "not planned to move forward at this stage."

Gafni said in a statement released to All Israel News:
The mission bill was introduced as in every beginning of the Knesset and not promoted at this stage, so dealing with it now is not relevant.

The bill says that in addition to the existing prohibition in the law on providing benefits as an enticement to convert, the very act of soliciting to convert, when it is done directly to a person, will also be prohibited. It is suggested to distinguish between a situation where the person they are trying to persuade is an adult, in which case the maximum proposed penalty is one year in prison, and a situation in which they are trying to persuade a minor, in which case the maximum proposed penalty is two years in prison.

As mentioned, the bill was again placed on the Knesset table procedurally only with the convening of the current Knesset more than four months ago and is not planned to move forward at this stage, so dealing with it now is irrelevant.

Communication of the Office of the Chairman of the Finance Committee, MK Gafni
If Netanyahu actually wanted to defend Christians' rights in Israel he would be demanding the law against proselytizing children that's already on the books be repealed. The fact of the matter is Orthodox Jews believe Christian proselytizing must be illegal under Jewish law (because Christians are "idol worshipers") and they've been pushing to make it illegal for decades.

With Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews controlling the Knesset and their numbers demographically exploding due to high birthrates it's likely just a matter of time before they get their way.

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