Isaac Herzog became the first Israeli to follow his father to the presidency on Wednesday after he was elected as the country’s 11th head of state.
The Jewish Agency chairman, who formerly led the Labour Party, secured 87 votes in the first round of the presidential election, a powerful majority of the Knesset’s 120 members.
His opponent Miriam Peretz won 26 votes.
“I plan to be everyone’s president, to listen to any position and listen to any person,” Herzog said after the vote, according to Haaretz.
“It is essential to tend to the bleeding wounds in our society; we must defend Israel’s international standing and its good name among the nations; combat antisemitism and hatred of Israel; protect the pillars of our democracy.”
The margin of victory — the largest for any Israeli presidential candidate — was remarkable given the Knesset remain fiercely divided over the formation of the next government after four consecutive general elections.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Herzog on the victory, adding that he wished him “great success on behalf of all Israel’s citizens.”
אני מברך את יצחק הרצוג על בחירתו לנשיא המדינה ואני מאחל לו הצלחה רבה בשם כל אזרחי ישראל. אני מודה למרים פרץ על ההתמודדות המכובדת ואני משוכנע שהיא תמשיך לתרום לחברה בישראל כפי שעשתה כל חייה.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 2, 2021
The result means the man whose father Chaim served as Israel’s sixth president until 1993 will succeed Reuven Rivlin next month.
Herzog’s longstanding political connections had led him to be billed as the frontrunner, but none of the 12 parties in the Knesset have endorsed a candidate, leading to some speculation that a surprise outcome was possible.
President-Elect Herzog just won the presidency by the most EVER votes in an Israeli presidential election. Even more than when Shimon Peres, his father Chaim Herzog, Yitzhak Navon, Zalman Shazar, and Chaim Weizman (!) ran uncontested in 2014, 1988, 1978, 1968, 1951. https://t.co/NZqtSU4YfG
— Eylon Levy (@EylonALevy) June 2, 2021
But Peretz, a former Israel Prize winner known to be have right-leaning political views, fell far short of the 61-member majority.
The president-elect said before his election that he would draw on the experience of his family in the role: in addition to his father, his grandfather was Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi, holding the role even before the state’s foundation.
Among those congratulating Herzog was Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who said: “On behalf of British Jewry we send our heartfelt congratulations to Isaac Herzog on his election as President of Israel.
“We look forward to working with him to support Israel, strengthen diaspora relations and build bridges between communities. Mazel Tov!”
Richard Woolf, the acting chair of the Zionist Federation, said Herzog was continue a “family legacy of serving the State of Israel”.
He added: “May he lead with integrity and courage for all the people and State of Israel!”
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