Not only is Naftali Bennett the first strictly observant Jew to obtain the Israeli government’s highest post, he is probably the first to hold such a position since the fall of the Hasmonean dynasty. David Stav, a leading religious-Zionist rabbi, comments on the implications:
Naftali Bennett’s election illustrates that Torah observance is not an inherent barrier to serving in the top position of the Israeli government. . . . Bennett’s religious observance will be on greater public display than it has been in the past. Certainly, that alone creates a great kiddush Hashem—a public exaltation of God’s name. And the very fact that a prime minister of a Jewish state is able to act fully within the guidelines of halakhah further exalts the Divine Name.
The Jewish tradition dictates that even the highest-level public servant, such as a king, or in this case the prime minister, is not above the law, and is subject to the same halakhic requirements as every subject or citizen. This includes upholding the halakhic principle [that] saving a life . . . takes priority over nearly every other matter of Jewish law. This responsibility to safeguard the primacy of life is manifest in an even more comprehensive manner when applied to the practice of a national leader.
On such grounds, writes Stav, Bennett would, for instance, be given a wide berth to violate the Sabbath to tend to matters of security and public safety. Stav sees such conflicts not as awkward problems, but as opportunities:
Though it would seem that the questions of how one can manage religious observance while the state makes its many demands spotlight the potential for conflict between the two, really the country should focus instead on the beauty of halakhic practice, and its dynamic nature. . . . Deliberations and debates that were once the purview of only certain rarefied elements of Jewish society are likely to become of interest to the broader [Israeli] public in ways that I firmly believe will allow it better to recognize and to appreciate the beauty and meaning of our halakhic-legal system.