The election of Isaac Herzog by members of Parliament or the Knesset as Israel’s new president, against the backdrop of consideration of a coalition that could end Benjamin Netanyahu’s long grip on power as the country’s prime minister, is partly symmetrical and certainly symbolic.
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As Allison Kaplan Somer wrote in the newspapers Haaretz Left-leaning Herzog is as close to “royalty” as the Israeli political system can imagine, part of the once-dominant Ashkenazi elite – referring to the Jews who came from Europe – who formed the state of Israel for decades after it was founded in 1948.
Isaac Herzog is the son of Irish-born Chaim Herzog, who served as president of Israel from 1983 to 1993. The Guardian, Thursday (3/6/2021), his grandfather Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog was Ireland’s first chief rabbi for more than a decade, before becoming chief rabbi of Palestine—then still the British Mandate of Palestine—, and then chief rabbi of Israel until 1959. .
his uncle; Abba Eban, the country’s most famous diplomat, has served as foreign minister and Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and the United States.
A total of 120 Knesset members voted for Herzog over Miriam Peretz, who is seen as closer to the country’s conservative and nationalist political camp, to replace popular President Reuvin Rivlin, who belongs to Netanyahu’s Likud party.
The formerly powerful Labor Party led by Herzog, a wealthy lawyer, lost influence in Israel’s political reconfiguration to the right under Netanyahu.
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Herzog was unusual in the macho world of Israeli politics, often ruthless as he was perceived as more soft-spoken, respectful, and even bland than many of his contemporaries.
Some observers blame this trait for his failure to achieve his first ambition of becoming prime minister.
Herzog’s political career began as cabinet secretary of Ehud Barak between 1999 and 2000. He then ran for the Knesset of the Labor Party between 2003 and 2018, climbing the ladder with various ministerial posts to rising to lead the party from 2013-2018—making him unsuccessful in running for office. prime minister in 2015.
After losing party leadership, in 2018 he was appointed chairman of the Jewish Agency, a high-profile body that serves as a liaison between Israel and the Jewish diaspora, in a role that helps him continue to cultivate political connections and perform on the national and international stage.
Netanyahu, unsuccessfully opposed to Rivlin’s ambitions for the same role, did not reveal a preference between Herzog and Peretz before the election. Some observers say he does not want to support the wrong horse for president, a position that holds the power to pardon criminal offenses under the country’s “basic law”.
For now, the question is whether Herzog’s election marks any sign of a changing Israeli political weather—at least, in terms of domestic politics.
The ambition is clear. In his first speech after his election, Herzog said he intended to “build bridges” within Israeli society and with the Jewish diaspora and “safeguard the foundations of Israel’s democracy” – a process Netanyahu has accused of being destructive.