Isaac Herzog, the son of a previous president and a former Labor party leader, was chosen the 11th President of the Jewish State of Israel on Wednesday, defeating his challenger Miriam Peretz by 87 votes to 33 in a secret ballot of all 120 Knesset members.
Herzog got more than half of the votes in the 120-seat Knesset in the first round of voting.
On July 9, he will be sworn in for a single seven-year term.
Herzog stated following the voting that he aspires to serve as President of the State of Israel for all Israelis.
He pledged to “listen attentively to every position and respect every person” while also working to “identify the lines that unite us and build bridges of understanding in order to bring even the most diametrically opposed people together, both within Israel and with our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately extended his congratulations to the incoming president.
“I congratulate Isaac Herzog on his victory as President and wish him the best of luck on behalf of the Israeli people,” Netanyahu stated.
“I appreciate Miriam Peretz’s dignified candidacy and am confident she will continue to contribute to Israeli society in the manner in which she has done her entire life,” he said.
The race, which began exactly two weeks ago with the announcement of each candidate’s candidacy, took place against the backdrop of Israel’s continued political uncertainty and the absence of a permanent government.
Each candidate underwent a grueling campaign that involved hundreds of meetings with Knesset members and lengthy discussions with party officials, as well as efforts to garner widespread support – ideally also from the public.
Wednesday morning, Bezalel Smotrich, the chairman of the extreme-right Religious Zionist party, confirmed his faction’s support for Peretz.
However, Yaakov Litzman, the leader of United Torah Judaism, a minister who is not a Knesset member, told Ynet on Wednesday morning that he believes his fraction supports Herzog. He stated that if he were eligible to vote, he would likewise vote for Herzog.
The mostly symbolic post is intended to act as a moral compass for the nation and to foster togetherness.
Herzog, 60, is a former Labor opposition leader who campaigned unsuccessfully in the 2013 parliamentary elections against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He is the descendant of a well-known Zionist family. Prior to being elected president, his father, Chaim Herzog, served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Abba Eban, his uncle, served as Israel’s first foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations and the United States of America. His grandpa was the first top rabbi of the country.
He is also the current head of the Jewish Agency, a non-governmental organization that collaborates with the government to promote immigration to Israel. Given his close ties to the political establishment, he is usually seen as the front-runner to win.
Peretz, 67, is viewed as a more traditional, nationalist candidate.
As a kid, she emigrated to the United States from Morocco and has worked as a teacher, educator, and presenter on Judaism, Zionism, and bereavement.
Two of her sons were killed while serving in Israel’s military. In 2018, she was honored with the Israel Prize, the country’s highest honor, for her lifetime accomplishments.
Peretz would have been the first woman to hold the office, as well as the first settler, if she had been elected. She and her family resided in one of Israel’s communities in the Sinai Peninsula until 1979, when the land was restored to Egypt as part of a peace pact. Peretz then relocated to the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev, which is located immediately north of Jerusalem.
While the president is mostly a ceremonial head of state, he is responsible with selecting a political party leader to lead coalition governments following parliamentary elections.
In the last two years, Israel has staged four national elections amid a lengthy political crisis.
President Rivlin to President-elect Isaac Herzog:
“The title of ‘first citizen’ and the task of guarding the character of the State of Israel, particularly at this point in time, are heavy responsibilities. I have no doubt that you will bear them superbly. I am proud to pass on the baton to you in a month’s time. Long live the State of Israel! Long live the President of the State of Israel!”
President Rivlin to Miriam Peretz:
“Dear Miriam, you have a piece of my heart, of all of our hearts. I want to thank you for setting out on this path. For your sacrifice. For the special way you chose in this campaign. For the language you taught us – the language of the heart.”
The Jewish Agency for Israel congratulates its Chairman of the Executive Isaac Herzog on being elected the President of Israel. “It is with great pride that I congratulate the next President of Israel. His unwavering dedication to the Jewish people and to serving the State of Israel is an inspiration, and we will all undoubtedly continue to benefit from his leadership,” said Michael Siegal, The Jewish Agency’s Chairman of the Board of Governors.
Amira Ahronoviz, The Jewish Agency’s Director General and CEO wholeheartedly congratulated Herzog: “I am confident that Mr. Hertzog deep commitment to strengthening and unifying the Jewish people will continue guiding him in his new position as President of the State of Israel.”
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder on behalf of the more than 100 Jewish communities on six continents affiliated with the World Jewish Congress, said: “I cannot think of a better or more able representative of the State of Israel and the people of Israel – Jews and Arabs, religious and secular. He brings to this new position the dignity and depth of a true statesman.”