Herzog was born on September 22, 1960, in Tel Aviv to a prominent Zionist family. His grandfather, Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, was the country’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi. His father, Chaim Herzog, served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and President of the State of Israel.
Herzog lived in New York and attended the Ramaz School. In the following years, while also studying in high school, Herzog gained an advanced academic education at Cornell University and New York University.
When he returned to Israel at the end of 1978, he enlisted in the IDF and served as a major officer in Unit 8200 of the Intelligence Corps. Herzog left the army with the rank of major
Herzog subsequently earned a law degree from Tel Aviv University and went to work at a law firm founded by his father, Herzog, Fox & Ne’eman
Before winning his first election to the Knesset, Herzog served as Secretary of the Economic-Social Council (1988-1990), as Government Secretary (1999-2001) and as Chairman of the Anti-Drug Authority (2000-2003).
In 2003, Herzog was elected to the 16th Knesset as a member of the Labor Party. He served as a member of the Knesset Finance, Internal Affairs and Environment, and Anti-Drug Abuse Committees, as well as Israel Labor Party Parliamentary Group Whip. Herzog also chaired the Lobby for the War Against Drugs in Israel, the Lobby for Tourism in Israel, the Lobby for Youth in Israel, and the Municipal Lobby, and is a member of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and the Environmental Lobby.
In January 2005, Herzog was appointed Minister of Housing and Construction, a post he held until November 2005 when the Labor Party resigned from the government coalition. After serving as Minister of Tourism from May 2006 until March 2007, he was appointed Minister of Social Affairs and Services.
Herzog placed second on the Labor Party list for the 2009 elections and was appointed Minister of Welfare & Social Services and the Minister of the Diaspora, Society & the Fight Against Anti-Semitism. After Ehud Barak left the Labor Party to establish the Independence Party in January 2011, Herzog resigned his place in the Israeli cabinet.
In November 2013, Herzog was elected chairman of the Labor Party, defeating incumbent Shelly Yachimovich in the election for the post. Ten days after his election to lead his party, Herzog met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to pledge his support for the two-state solution.
Israeli media announced on March 30, 2016, that a corruption investigation was being launched into Herzog’s 2013 Knesset campaign. According to officials, Herzog was suspected of accepting illegal donations during his run for the leadership of the Labor Party in 2013. Upon being reached for a statement, Herzog quipped that he is confident that “the investigation will disprove these delusional claims.”
In 2015, Herzog hoped to form a coalition to challenge Prime Minister Netanyahu. Only Tzipi Livni and her Ha’Tnuah Party joined the new Zionist Union Party. Though polls showed they had a chance to win, the results revealed Netanyahu had prevailed, wining 30 seats, but the union came in second with 24 seats.
In 2017, Herzog lost in the Labor party primaries but remained the leader of the opposition. After being offered the opportunity to be the head of the Jewish Agency, he resigned from the Knesset. In his three years in that roll Herzog stressed improving relations between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, stemming the rise in intermarriage, protecting Israel’s democratic values, and fighting anti-Semitism.
In a secret ballot on June 2, 2021, Herzog was elected Israel’s 11th president with 87 votes. He will serve a single seven-year term beginning July 9 when Reuven Rivlin completes his term.
“I intend to be the president of everyone,” Herzog said after the votes were tallied. “We must defend Israel’s international status and its good reputation in the family of nations, fight antisemitism and hatred of Israel, and preserve the pillars of our democracy. “
In October 2021, Herzog announced the establishment of the Israeli Climate Forum, which will lead deliberations about the climate crisis and Israel’s role in the fight against it. The forum will include representatives from several authorities: the Government, the Knesset, Israeli academia, local authorities, and the business and industrial sector. The forum will operate under the auspices of the Office of the President and will convene several times a year.
Herzog is married and has three children.
Sources: Matt Wanderman, “Yitzhak Herzog named as second politician under investigation,” Israel National News, (March 30, 2016).
Israeli Foreign Ministry.
“Isaac Herzog,” Wikipedia.
Ilan Ben Zion, “Herzog, scion of prominent Israeli family, elected president,” AP, (June 2, 2021).