Jun 2, 2021 - World

Isaac Herzog elected as Israel's 11th president

Isaac Herzog with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau
Isaac Herzog (center left) with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau (center right) at the 31st annual International March of the Living in 2019. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Isaac Herzog was elected on Wednesay as the 11th president of Israel, winning more than two-thirds of the votes in Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

Why it matters: The president of Israel gives would-be prime ministers the mandate to form a new government, highly important during the ongoing political crisis in Israel, and can also offer pardons — which could become relevant with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial for corruption.

Herzog comes from the closest thing Israel has to a political aristocracy. He is the son of Haim Herzog, Israel’s sixth president, the grandson of Isaac Herzog, the first chief Rabbi of Israel, and nephew of Abba Eben, the legendary former foreign minister.

  • Herzog was a member of Knesset from the center-left Labor Party for 20 years and ran against Netanyahu as the party's leader in the 2015 elections, which he lost.
  • In 2018, Herzog left politics and was elected chairman of the Jewish Agency, the world's largest Jewish non-profit. He managed to beat Netanyahu’s preferred candidate by getting the support of the leaders of Jewish organizations in the U.S.

Driving the news: Herzog won in a landslide on Wednesday, getting the votes of 87 members, many of them from the political right, compared to 27 for his opponent, Miriam Peretz.

  • Netanyahu's party didn't nominate a candidate. Netanyahu had previously considered running himself in an attempt to gain immunity from his corruption trial.
  • He didn’t support any candidate, likely taking into consideration the fact that he might need to ask one of them for a pardon down the road.

What he's saying: Herzog said in his victory speech that he would focus his efforts on uniting the Israeli society after the recent inter-communal violence.

  • Herzog said he would also focus on strengthening Israel’s international standing, leading the fight against antisemitism and enhancing the bond between Israel and the Jewish community in the U.S. and around the world.

The big picture: Herzog is experienced in foreign policy and has close connections in the U.S. with both Democrats and Republicans. He has a personal relationship with President Biden and members of his administration.

What’s next: Herzog will take office on July 9, replacing Reuven Rivlin. During the campaign, Herzog avoided questions about whether he would consider pardoning Netanyahu.

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