Amid Evangelical Pressure, Netanyahu Says Israel Won’t Push Bill Targeting Christian Missionaries with imprisonment
The prime minister’s remarks came in direct response to uproar from evangelical Christian Zionist groups over his far-right coalition’s introduction of a bill that would punish Christian attempts to solicit conversion with imprisonment
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday attempted to assuage widespread concerns from the evangelical Christian community concerning new legislation that would punish attempts to solicit conversion with imprisonment.
Tweeting in both English and Hebrew, Netanyahu insisted that ‘we will not advance any law against the Christian community,’ dismissing legislation introduced by two ultra-Orthodox members of his far-right coalition.
Netanyahu and his allies – namely former Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer – have publicly and privately stressed the importance of evangelical support as U.S. Jews have grown increasingly critical of Israel’s rightward shift. This dynamic has largely fueled Israel becoming an increasingly partisan issue where Republicans have adopted increasingly pro-Israel sentiments – both within international geopolitics and local domestic politics.
The legislation, introduced by United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher, would apply to anyone who would attempt to persuade someone from changing their religious beliefs.
The legislation, however, specifically targets Christian missionary groups.
The UTJ bill further outlaws sharing New Testament theology via online videos, online articles, social media, written literature and other forms of media. It further stipulates one year imprisonment for explaining faith in Jesus to an adult and two years imprisonment if discussing it with a minor.
The legislation, first reported by evangelical website All Israel News, has already provoked significant outcry from leading evangelical Christians — many of whom have been stalwart supporters of Netanyahu over the past several decades.