Are Isaac Herzog & Yuli Edelstein Israel's next presidential contenders?

#29: Isaac Herzog & Yuli Edelstein

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September 28, 2019 22:39
2 minute read.
Yuli Edelstein & Isaac Herzog

Yuli Edelstein & Isaac Herzog. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, 58, and Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, 61, are key candidates to take over from President Reuven Rivlin, whose term ends in 2021.

Herzog, the former leader of the Labor Party, who took over as chairman of the Jewish Agency last year, is a man of substance and integrity. He comes from good stock: his father, Chaim Herzog, served two terms as Israel’s president; his mother, Aura Ambache, founded the Council for a Beautiful Israel; and his paternal grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, served both as Ireland’s first chief rabbi and Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

In his role at the helm of the agency, Herzog has made bridging the gap between Israel and Diaspora Jewry a major goal.

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“I see the growing rift between our communities, and I am shaken to my core. In Israel there are those who shamefully refuse to recognize the great non-Orthodox Judaism of North America. In North America, there are those who disavow the centrality of Israel to Jewish life,” Herzog said in a keynote address to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly last October. “I’ll be frank: If Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora do not seek common ground in order to courageously confront together the challenges of this new age, we are in danger of losing a significant part of the Jewish people.”

Herzog, who is a lawyer by profession, is married to Michal, a lawyer, and they have three sons.

Edelstein, who has served as speaker of the Knesset for six years, was one of the most prominent refuseniks in the former Soviet Union and made aliyah with his family in 1988. His political rise was meteoric. After establishing the Yisrael B’Aliyah party together with fellow refusenik Natan Sharansky, he was elected to the Knesset in 1996, and was appointed immigrant absorption minister in Benjamin
Netanyahu’s Likud-led government. He was elected again in 1999, appointed deputy immigrant absorption minister by Ariel Sharon in 2001, and retained his seat in the 2003 election, shortly after which Yisrael B’Aliyah merged with the Likud.

After the 2009 election, he was appointed minister of information and the Diaspora in the Netanyahu-led government, and after the 2013 election, was appointed speaker. He, too, is respected across the political spectrum as a politician with integrity.

In ushering in a program called “Connecting to the Diaspora” in cooperation with Herzog’s Jewish Agency in March, Edelstein said, “Our shared fate connects the Jewish people everywhere. The differences never frayed the unity between us or made us forget our shared history – or dimmed the hope to continue writing the next chapters of the Jewish story together.”

In 2016, two years after the death of his wife, Tanya, with whom he had two children, Edelstein married Irina Nevzlin, chairwoman of the board of directors of Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People and president of the NADAV Foundation.

Although they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, Herzog and Edelstein are true democrats and leaders of substance. Both are contenders for the presidency, although there are others, too – such as Sharansky and former Labor minister and MK Dalia Itzik, to name just two.


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