Israel Elects New Ceremonial President, Isaac Herzog

Thursday, 3 June, 2021 - 00:18

Israel’s Knesset elected a new president, Isaac Herzog, on Wednesday, placing a former left-wing rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a ceremonial role even as Netanyahu’s rivals struggled to meet a deadline to form a government.

Herzog won with 87 votes, defeating Miriam Peretz, a motivational speaker who lost two sons to military combat.

The office of president has little power in Israel, other than serving as the head of state, and choosing which of the parties will have the opportunity to form a new government after parliamentary elections. The presidential term is seven years.

Herzog is the son of the country’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog. He has served for several years as the head of the Jewish Agency, an institution through which Israel maintains relations with Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

In 2015, Herzog led the Zionist Union party as it attempted to unseat Netanyahu and his conservative Likud Party. The election was controversial, partly because President Barack Obama intervened in an attempt to topple Netanyahu.

Netanyahu congratulated his former rival on Wednesday, as opposition parties scrambled to preserve a coalition deal aimed at replacing him. The deadline for the opposition parties to form a government expires at 12:00 a.m. Thursday.

If Israel goes to a fifth election since 2019, and Netanyahu leads his party again, Herzog would hold Netanyahu’s fate in his hands. Even if the Likud emerged again as the strongest party, Herzog could choose the opposition over the Likud.

Israel’s current president is Reuven Rivlin, who was also a former rival to Netanyahu, albeit within the Likud itself.

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