A proposed bill would make sexually-explicit Internet chat between an adult and a minor a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in jail.

The National Council for the Child submitted a proposal to the Justice Ministry that would classify such communications with minors under the age of 14 as sexual harassment, an offense already punishable with up to two year sentences. The law would be a breakthrough in Israeli law, which does not now forbid any Internet communications that are not carried into actions.

According to attorney Vered Windman, deputy legal counsel at the Council for the Child, currently the law against sexual harassment only recognizes harassment of minors if the minor is dependent in some manner on the adult.

Since Internet acquaintances don't carry any of the weight of relationships with teachers or other authority figures, the law does not apply. According to Windman, after an investigator for Amnon Levy's Channel 2 show masqueraded as a thirteen year old girl and illustrated how adults try to seduce her, the Council decided the amendment was necessary.

According to the watchdog group, several other laws recognize that children under fourteen do not have the ability to consent. The proposal also includes a clause making it an offense treat as a sex object any adults masquerading as children in Internet chat rooms.

Windman acknowledged the problems inherent in passing a law that treats wordsas the actual offense. "Israeli law used to include the offense of 'sexual innuendo' but it was removed precisely due to this problem, so it is hard to guess what the Justice Ministry position on the matter will be."

There have been numerous attempts to pass similar laws in the U.S., but they have all been thrown out by courts for imposing restrictions on protected First Amendment speech.