Last month, following the capture of four of the escaped Arab terrorists who had fled from Gilboa Prison in the north of the country, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Israel's first-ever religious leader, arrived at the central command of the investigation. It was Friday evening - and the visit was documented over Shabbat.
Bennett's active participation in the investigation shook up the world of social media, leaving many shaking their heads in disapproval: Had Prime Minister Bennett desecrated the holiest day of the week, intended for prayer and cessation of the weekly work grind?
In a special report by Channel 11 News - Kan, Bennett's detractors are quoted as claiming the Prime Minister is "shaping" Jewish Law to fit into his political career while supporters say that even if the matter at hand isn't one of "life or death," the man at the steering wheel of the Jewish State has an obligation to fulfull his duties - even at the cost of violating the Sabbath.
MK Ya'akov Asher of the haredi United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party says that while, "saving a life takes precedence over Shabbat observance," Bennett's visit to the control center an hour after reports of four of the six escaped prisoners arrived was more of a "publicity stunt" than personal sacrifice for the price of the best interests of the public.
"Only a Prime Minister capable of using religion [for his own interests] would do such a thing," he continues, adding, "You can lay assured a secular leader would not act in the same way."
Shas MK Moshe Gafni has gone a step further in his attacks on Bennett, threatening to turn over "Heaven and Earth" to ensure this "Prime Minister who wears a kippa [and desecrates Jewish Law] doesn't get away it..."
At the same time, leading rabbis from the religious Zionist camp including Rabbi Yuval Sherlow of the Petach Tikva yeshiva, claim Bennett has a full halachic "pass" to act as he please on Shabbat and other holidays so long as he'd doing this in the interests of the Jewish State.
A former advisor to Bennett and current reporter for Channel 20 News, meanwhile, asserts that the Prime Minister can and should do what's best for Israel despite his religious observance. "The question is: Does he really believe it is vital for Israel?", asks the reporter.
Rabbi Sherlow says the problem stems from lack of precedent. "We've never had a religious Prime Minister so we don't know how these issues should be handled. Jewish law was recorded at a time when an independent Jewish state was but a dream. Now that we have a religious Jew at the helm, it's time for these issues to be addressed..."
Former major general and National Security Advisor of Israel, Ya'akov Amidror, says the situation is "complicated and without a set of halachic provisions, every [religious] leader should follow the law as he sees fit."
Israel's former ambassador to the UN as well as Benjamin Netanyahu's personal advisor following his rise to power in 1996, Dor Gold, also an observant Jew, says that when Syria's Foreign Minister made false accusations against the State of Israel at the UN, he withheld from responding on Shabbat, "because his [heart] told him not to do it." "Today, I'd probably react differently," continues Gold, while pointing out that with social media requiring "instant replies" to "Fake News reports," "it's a requirement to act accordingly."
According to rabbinic sources, the biggest issues are the "grey areas" in which there is lack of clarity as to how a political leader should act. "At the bottom of the command chain, there is a lot more clarity, whereas once you become Prime Minister, there is more room for discussion," says Amidror.
Video: Kan News