Israeli Lawmakers Elect New President, Isaac Herzog

The former leader of the Labor party was chosen by parliamentary vote on Wednesday, in an unusual display of consensus, and will take office in July.,

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Isaac Herzog will be Israel’s new president.

  • June 2, 2021, 2:01 p.m. ET
ImageMr. Herzog, left, seen here with Yariv Levin, Speaker of the Knesset, will take over from the current president, Reuven Rivlin, in July.
Mr. Herzog, left, seen here with Yariv Levin, Speaker of the Knesset, will take over from the current president, Reuven Rivlin, in July.Credit…Pool photo by Ronen Zvulun

Even as the country and its Parliament remained deeply divided over the formation of a new government, Israeli lawmakers came together on Wednesday to elect a new president, Isaac Herzog, a former leader of the Labor party and government minister.

Displaying a rare degree of consensus in a secret ballot, they voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Herzog, who currently serves as the chairman of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency for Israel, which helps deal with immigration, interacts with the Jewish diaspora and runs social programs.

The president plays a mostly symbolic role as a national unifier in Israel’s fractious parliamentary democracy, where the prime minister wields the most power.

One of a president’s main responsibilities is to grant a candidate the task of forming a government after elections. In Israel’s current, fragmented politics, which have produced four inconclusive elections in two years, that involves more than the usual level of skill, legal interpretation and discretion.

The president can also play an important role in Israeli diplomacy and has the power to pardon convicted criminals and exercise clemency by reducing or commuting sentences.

Mr. Herzog, 60, the grandson of the first chief rabbi of Israel and the son of one of the country’s earlier presidents, Chaim Herzog, will take over from the current president, Reuven Rivlin, in July.

“Our challenges are many and should not be taken lightly,” Mr. Herzog said in his acceptance speech. “I intend to be the president of all Israelis, to lend an attentive ear to every position and respect every person.”

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