Israel’s First Orthodox Prime Minister Can Demonstrate the Compatibility of Torah and Public Service

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.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Judaism in Israel, Naftali Bennett, Religion and politics, Religious Zionism


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy