Jewish agency chief, former Labor chief and son of 6th president defeats educator Miriam Peretz, says he’ll work to ‘build bridges’ within Israeli society and with Diaspora
Isaac Herzog, the chairman of the Jewish Agency and former head of the Labor party, was elected Wednesday as Israel’s eleventh president.
Herzog defeated Miriam Peretz, a social activist who overcame the loss of two of her sons in battle to become an Israel Prize-winning educator, with 87 votes, the most a presidential candidate has ever won, to her 26.
In the secret election, in which all 120 MKs were eligible to cast votes, three abstained, three votes were disqualified and one lawmaker, Ra’am chair Mansour Abbas, did not vote.Herzog, who is the son of Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog, and the grandson of Israel’s first chief rabbi, will succeed Reuven Rivlin as the latter’s term ends on July 9.
Immediately after the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Herzog on his election, saying, “I wish him luck in the name of all Israeli citizens.”
The prime minister added, “I thank Miriam Peretz for her honorable candidacy and am certain she will continue to contribute to Israeli society, as she has done her entire life.”
In his first speech after being elected, Herzog said he intended “to build bridges” within Israeli society and with the Jewish Diaspora, to encourage entrepreneurship, “fight antisemitism and hatred of Israel,” and “safeguard the foundations of our democracy.”
“I accept upon myself the heavy responsibility you have placed upon me. I accept the privilege of serving the entire Israeli public,” he said.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition, said Herzog was “a worthy and wonderful man who is always focused on the good of the country and the Jewish people. Good luck, Mr. President!”
Israel’s president is largely ceremonial but plays a key role in deciding who gets the mandate to form a government following elections. The president also has the power to pardon people and grant clemency, something that could become a key issue should Netanyahu be convicted in his ongoing corruption trial.
In the run-up to the vote, Herzog refused to say whether he would consider pardoning Netanyahu, who had not endorsed either candidate.
A well-heeled attorney by profession at one of the country’s top firms (which was founded by his father), Herzog’s family story is as close as one comes to Israeli royalty. He is the grandson of Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Isaac Herzog, for whom he is named, and the son of former IDF major general and then president Chaim Herzog. His brother Michael is a retired IDF brigadier general. His aunt Suzy was the wife of former foreign minister Abba Eban.
In his 15 years in the Knesset, he became known as a soft-spoken and mild-mannered manager. He ran respectful campaigns and declined to take part in the kind of angry political feuding that have come to define the country’s fractious politics. Presidential candidate Miriam Peretz greeted by supporters outside the Knesset on the day of the presidential elections, June 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Peretz became a household name under the most tragic of circumstances after her eldest son Uriel was killed fighting in Lebanon in 1998 and his younger brother Eliraz was killed in an operation near Gaza in 2010. But the Casablanca native went on to become a motivational speaker on issues surrounding Zionism and coping with loss. In 2018, she won the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, the country’s highest cultural honor.