Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out approving a proposed law that would have made it illegal to mention the Gospel in the Jewish state.
“We will not advance any law against the Christian community,” he said in a tweet.
He was responding to a move by two senior members of Israel’s parliament known as the Knesset to introduce a bill that would outlaw telling people about Jesus in Israel, and jail everyone who does.
All Israel News reported the bill could have created a major headache for Mr. Netanyahu’s government by upsetting the 60 million Evangelical Christians in the US and hundreds of millions more around the world who are among the biggest supporters of the State of Israel.
Editor-in-Chief, evangelical leader and bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg wrote that US lawmakers have always stood with the Jewish state and were likely to fiercely oppose efforts to silence followers of Jesus in the Holy Land.
Former US Ambassador of International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback publicly warned that the proposed bill posed a massive threat to free speech, human rights and religious freedom.
He told All Israel News that: “Free and democratic countries simply do not outlaw the free exchange of ideas and that includes religious beliefs and convictions. Article 18 of the Universal Charter of Human Rights – which Israel has signed onto – guarantees freedom of religion, including the right to decide your own faith beliefs.”
The proposed legislation would have outlawed all efforts by people of one faith who, in any way, want to discuss or try to persuade people of other faiths to consider changing their current religious beliefs.
The punishment for doing so would be one year imprisonment if with an adult, but two years if with someone under 18.
This bill would apply to people having spiritual conversations with Israelis of any religion.
The authors of the legislation Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher are ultra-Orthodox Jewish members of Knesset.
Both are influential voices – and important votes – inside the 64-seat governing coalition led by Mr. Netanyahu.
Mr. Gafni who has a long history of opposing Christians serves as the chair of the Knesset’s powerful Finance Committee, as well as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Joint Committee for the Defense Budget.
Mr. Asher is chair of the Internal Affairs and Environment Protection Committee.
In explaining their bill, the pair specifically emphasised it was a warning to stop Christians, in particular.
Mr. Gafni now concedes that it won’t be taken any further.
He said in a statement: “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.”
Mr. Rosenberg observes that Mr. Netanyahu and most, if not all, members of his Likud Party have always demonstrated that they are adamant about preserving and protecting the Jewish state as a liberal democracy.
They have always believed that even unpopular views must be allowed to be held and voiced in Israel, and that the rights of religious and ethnic minorities must be protected under the rule of law.
All Israel News points out Mr. Netanyahu has proven himself as a great friend of Evangelical Christians over the past three decades.