Nov 16, 2022 - World

Scoop: Israel's Netanyahu to keep Michael Herzog as ambassador to U.S.

Biden shakes hands with Michael Herzog, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States after menorah lighting ceremony in celebration of Hanukkah in the East Room of the White House on December 01, 2021

Biden shakes hands with Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog at the White House in December 2021. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/AFP via Getty Images

Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to keep Israel's ambassador to Washington, Mike Herzog, in his position even though he was appointed by the previous government, two Israeli and U.S. sources told Axios.

Why it matters: The ambassador to Washington is always a critical post for Israel, and the job is only expected to get harder once the new government is in place.

  • The Biden administration is concerned that multiple extreme-right politicians are expected to be appointed as senior ministers.
  • There are also likely to be tensions over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Behind the scenes: Herzog, a retired general whose father was president of Israel and whose brother Isaac is the current president, was appointed last year by then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

  • But senior Israeli and U.S. sources say that before Herzog became ambassador, he also sought and received an endorsement from Netanyahu.
  • At a going away party for Herzog at the think tank he worked for before heading to Washington, Netanyahu sent a video in which he praised Herzog and said he was the best man for the job.

Netanyahu worked closely with Herzog in his previous tenure as prime minister, and he even sent the former general on secret and sensitive missions, including back-channel negotiations with the Palestinians.

  • In recent days, Netanyahu and his close aides have signaled in private they intend to keep Herzog in his job, the sources said.

The decision to keep Herzog in Washington would go over well with officials at the White House and State Department, who see him as a professional and trusted interlocutor, a U.S. official said.

  • Herzog has also cultivated relationships with both parties in Congress, which could come in handy given Netanyahu's strained relations with many top Democrats on Capitol Hill.
  • Netanyahu's office and Herzog declined to comment.
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