Israeli Knesset swears in Herzog as new president
JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s parliament is due to inaugurate Isaac Herzog as the country’s president on Wednesday, a largely ceremonial position aimed at forging national unity and serving as the country’s moral compass.
The inauguration ceremony in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem is usually conducted with great pomp: honor guards in ceremonial uniforms, red carpet, police escort on horseback and swearing in on a Bible, followed by the blowing of ram’s horns by military rabbis.
Herzog, a descendant of a prominent Zionist family, will succeed Reuven Rivlin as Israel’s 11th president and serve for a single seven-year term. His father, Chaim Herzog, was president in the 1980s after serving as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, and his grandfather, Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, was the country’s first chief rabbi. His uncle, Abba Eban, served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States.
“The truth is, I envy you a bit,” Rivlin said in a letter to Herzog posted on Twitter. “In a little while you will discover what a great and wonderful privilege you have” to be president of all the diverse communities of Israel – Jews and Arabs, religious and laity, young and old.
Herzog, 60, was elected president by the Knesset last month. He had previously been leader of the Labor Party and leader of the opposition in parliament. After leaving politics in 2018, he headed the Jewish Agency, a non-profit organization that works closely with the Israeli government to promote Jewish immigration to Israel and serve Jewish communities abroad.
Taking office at a time of deep divisions in Israeli society, Herzog said during his election that he intended to be “everyone’s president” and work to preserve Israel’s democracy.
While most of the office’s functions are receiving foreign dignitaries and other ceremonial roles, the president has the power to grant pardons. It could become part of the national agenda if former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, is ever convicted.
He is also responsible for selecting a political party leader to form a governing coalition and serve as prime minister after the parliamentary elections – a task Rivlin has completed five times during his tenure, most recently after the parliamentary elections on the 23rd. March.
Herzog’s inauguration comes less than a month after Israel was sworn in to form a new government under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, which struck a coalition deal with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Netanyahu was ousted from office after a 12-year stint as prime minister and is now leader of the opposition.