Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
President-elect Itzhak Herzog and his rival Miriam Peretz at the Knesset during the vote, June 2, 2021.

Yitzhak (Bougie) Herzog, 60, defeated Miriam Peretz on Wednesday and will serve as the 11th President of the State of Israel, after 87 Knesset members, who voted secretly, chose him. Only 26 MKs voted for Peretz.

The two announced their candidacy two weeks ago, and the race took place against the background of political chaos without a permanent government in Israel. Usually, the weeks leading up to the Knesset’s presidential vote are tense and much more passionate and noisy than this time around, possibly because having a government is more important than having a largely ceremonial president.

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Herzog’s election marks the first case of an Israeli presidential dynasty in the tradition of Adams, Harrison, Roosevelt, and Bush: Bougie is the son of General Chaim Herzog, who served two terms as the Sixth President of Israel from 1983 to 1993. The president-elect’s grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi-Herzog, was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel.

The scheduled change of presidents is June 9. Before the end of his term, President Reuven Rivlin is expected to visit the White House and be the first Israeli politician to meet Joe Biden since his inauguration.

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin announced Herzog’s victory, telling him that “We are in a complex and not simple period, and there exist extraordinary opportunities. Many eyes are on the Presidential residence, they see him as the one who symbolizes our common values, and I am convinced that you will fulfill the hopes of so many of the citizens of Israel.”

Levin then told Herzog, “The president is the number one citizen, but he is a human being,” to which Herzog responded with an excited smile: “Right, I can confirm that.”

Levin went on to say, “I’m sure you are excited to follow in the footsteps of your father. You followed in his path, but were chosen in your right, thanks to your personality and your pleasant demeanor, and your extraordinary ability to understand the minds and hearts of people from different backgrounds.”

In his post-victory speech, Herzog said: “With reverence and great excitement, I accept my selection by the Knesset of Israel to the post. I would like to thank each and every one of the members of the Knesset for the trust you have placed in me. I accept the heavy responsibility you have placed on my shoulders, I accept the privilege of serving the entire Israeli public, in this high and lofty position.”

Herzog thanked his rival for the post, Miriam Peretz, an educator, and public speaker. After the deaths of two of her sons during their service in the IDF, Peretz became a lecturer on Zionism and living with loss. She was the recipient of the Israel Prize in 2018 for lifetime achievement. The new president-elect called her an “Israeli heroine, a symbol and inspiration to all the citizens of Israel.”

He continued, “Miriam, I reach out to you and wish for fruitful cooperation between us, for the sake of Israeli society.”

Peretz said in her concession speech: “I was privileged to face a dear person that I cherish and appreciate. My journey, which I set out on, is a journey I’m learning from. The love I received from the people of this country fills my heart.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.
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