An appeasement president for Israel – such a Middle East

Isaac Herzog, the elected president of the State of Israel, embodies, much more than the new prime minister, the break with the Netanyahu years.

Isaac (Itzhak) Herzog during a tribute, at the town hall of Paris, in January 2016, to the assassinated Prime Minister Rabin (JCall)

On July 9, Isaac Herzog will become President of the State of Israel until 2028, a position his father Haim Herzog already held from 1983 to 1993. Even if such a presidency is often considered honorary, it takes on a role. particular dimension with the end of the twelve years of presidency of the Israeli government by Benyamin Netanyahu. Isaac Herzog was indeed, at the head of the Labor Party, the leader of the parliamentary opposition to the Prime Minister of Likud, while Naftali Bennett, the new head of government, has long been a loyal supporter of Netanyahu within Likud itself. , before founding his own party, located even further to the right. This means that Herzog certainly embodies more than Bennett the break with those years when Netanyahu behaved, according to the title of a recent editorial in “The World”, ” king of democratic chaos in Israel ”.


Herzog is sometimes reduced to being a pure product of the Labor establishment that dominated the first thirty years of Israeli politics: his grandfather was Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi from 1948 to 1959, and his father headed military intelligence and was Israel’s ambassador to the UN, before becoming head of state. But, when Herzog was elected to the Knesset in 2003, the Labor Party only had 19 out of 120 MPs, half as many as the Likud. This electoral decline continued to worsen until 2015 when Herzog, appointed party president two years earlier, managed to win 24 deputies for one ” Zionist union Predominantly Labor. As leader of the parliamentary opposition in Netanyahu, Herzog judges the two-state solution ” impossible to achieve under current conditions ” and favors a ” separation Which would complete the West Bank wall, but excluding the main Arab towns in East Jerusalem.

In 2017, Netanyahu, in order to maintain the support of religious parties, refused the compromise drawn up with the diaspora on access to the Western Wall that was not controlled by the ultra-Orthodox. This unprecedented crisis of confidence led the authorities of international Zionism, in 2018, to appoint Herzog as the head of the Jewish Agency, responsible for organizing immigration to Israel. Netanyahu responds to this promotion of his ” chief opponent “By strengthening its links with” Christian Zionists In the United States, these fundamentalists whose anti-Semitic slippages disturb the American Jewish community. The prime minister, the target of a triple indictment for fraud, corruption and breach of trust, is pushing Israel into a deleterious cycle of four elections in less than two years. Obsessed by his maintenance at all costs at the head of the government, Netanyahu refuses to compete for the presidency of the state, giving Herzog the possibility of being widely elected, on June 2, by 87 of the 120 members of the Knesset.


From his election, Herzog pledged to ” to be the president of all Israelis ” and to ” build bridges between the different parts of our society ”. Never has the gap been so wide between what his predecessor as head of state, Reuven Rivlin, called the ” four tribes of Israel “, is ” the laity, the religious Zionists, the Orthodox and the Arabs ”. During his twelve years at the head of the government, Netanyahu did not stop protecting the ultra-Orthodox, even if it meant breaking with his former liege man Avigdor Lieberman, who had become the champion of a secularism of combat, very marked on the right. Lieberman, now Minister of Finance, has pledged to influence the 2017 compromise on access to the Western Wall. But he also shares with Prime Minister Bennett a resolutely anti-Arab rhetoric, hence the ambiguous position of the Palestinian Islamists of Raam, who support the government without sitting in it. Internal contradictions within an Israeli cabinet that ranges from far-right to far-left will only give further weight to Herzog’s calls for dialogue and respect.

As for Netanyahu, he remains convinced that this government, supported by only 60 deputies out of 120, with one abstention, can fall quickly. In any case, this is what he is methodically working on, if only to regain the immunity conferred by the presidency of the government. Herzog will not have too many of his talents to neutralize such a work of undermining. He will also have to re-establish very degraded links by Netanyahu with the diaspora, and above all with the Jewish community of the United States, where the passage of Herzog at the head of the Jewish Agency was appreciated. Herzog has, however, proven in the past that he was less in favor of a proactive relaunch of the two-state solution than of a separation unilaterally imposed on the Palestinians. It is therefore not on this aspect, which moreover escapes its prerogatives, that it can be expected. On the other hand, it will be up to him to lead another peace process, or at least one of appeasement, first between the different components of Israeli society, then between Israel and the Jewish diaspora. Enough to keep him busy for the next seven years.