50 Influential Jews: Isaac Herzog - No. 7

Will Israel's president persuade the coalition and the opposition to reach a compromise on the judicial reform?

 Israel's President Isaac Herzog. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel's President Isaac Herzog.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Although the role of an Israeli president is largely ceremonial, Isaac Herzog has transformed it into much more than that on diplomatic, political, and religious fronts and in initiatives designed to promote dialogue, mutual understanding, national unity, and strengthening Israel-Diaspora relations.

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Herzog is a president of firsts. He is the first second-generation president of Israel. He was the first president to visit the Gulf states, and the first president to attend the coronation of a British monarch. He is also the first president to visit the United States twice in less than a year, and was given the honor of addressing a joint session of Congress in July.

On the diplomatic front, Herzog is mainly responsible for the thaw between Turkey and Israel and the resumption of full diplomatic relations. In his two and a quarter years in office, he has made more than 20 visits abroad, during which he has utilized his gift for promoting goodwill.

A firm believer in dialogue, he has provided a neutral platform for coalition and opposition representatives to exchange ideas to reach a consensus over issues that have radically divided the nation, including judicial reform. His most recent proposal seeks to find a just compromise between the government and the opposition.

His experience in his previous capacity as chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel gave him a keen appreciation of Diaspora Jewry, as did the period in his youth when he was a student in the US. He knows many Diaspora leaders personally, understands their concerns, and knows that although they collectively represent the diversity of Jewish thought and opinion, the bottom line is that they all care about Jewish continuity and the State of Israel, albeit from different religious and political perspectives.

He has been quick to contact and visit Christian and Muslim communities that have been attacked by extremists. 

As far as his own faith is concerned, he regularly attends morning prayer services in the synagogue on the grounds of his official residence; and on Jewish holy days, he attends services at other synagogues and mingles with the congregants before and after the service.

All this and more make Herzog one of the most influential figures in the Jewish world.