Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Monday with embattled Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf, under attack for encouraging Arab Christians to go into the IDF, and said Israel will not tolerate threats against people advocating greater integration into Israeli society.

“The Christian youth must be allowed to go into the IDF,” Netanyahu said. “You are loyal citizens who want to defend the country, and I salute and support you. We will not tolerate threats on you and will work to firmly implement the law against those persecuting you. We will not allow the country to be torn apart from within. The State of Israel and the prime minister stand with you.”

Nadaf, who is openly active on behalf of the integration of Arab Christians into Israel’s mainstream and is the spiritual leader of a forum for the enlistment of Christian youth in the IDF, has been excommunicated by the Orthodox Church Council, subjected to death threats and the target of verbal attacks from Arab MKs.

The Jerusalem Patriarchate is also coming under pressure from various quarters to sack the Nazareth resident.

Nadaf said during the meeting that he would not be deterred.

“Our goal is to guard the Holy Land and the State of Israel,” he said. “We have broken the barrier of fear – the state deserves that we do our part in defending it. Those who oppose the integration of the Christian community in the institutions of state do not walk in the path of Christianity.”

Netanyahu said that a forum would be established that would include representatives from the government and the Christian community to promote the enlistment of Christian youth into the IDF and national service, and their full integration into Israeli life.

Among the purposes of the forum will be to “protect those who support enlistment and enlistees from violence and threats, and step up law enforcement against those who disturb the peace and incite to violence.”

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, there has been a significant increase in the number of Christian enlistees in the IDF, from 35 a year ago to approximately 100 this year, with another 500 young people from the community doing national service.

Nadaf was accompanied at the meeting by Lt. (res.) Shadi Khaloul, head of the forum for the enlistment of Christian youth in the IDF, and Naji Abid, the leader of the Orthodox council in Yafia.

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