Isaac Herzog

Isaac 'Bougie' Herzog (Hebrew: יצחק "בוז׳י" הרצוג; born 22 September 1960) is an Israeli politician.[1] He served as a member of the Knesset between 2003 and 2018 and held several ministerial posts, including Minister of Welfare and Social Services (2007–11). Formerly the chairman of the Labor Party, he served as the opposition leader from 2013 until 2018. In June 2018 he was elected Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and his term began on August 2018.[2]

Isaac Herzog
Isaac Herzog.jpg
Herzog in January 2014
Date of birth (1960-09-22) 22 September 1960 (age 59)
Place of birthTel Aviv, Israel
Knessets16, 17, 18, 19, 20
Faction represented in Knesset
2003–2018Labor Party
2015–2018Zionist Union
Ministerial roles
2005Minister of Housing & Construction
2006–2007Minister of Tourism
2007–2009Minister of the Diaspora, Society and the Fight against Antisemitism
2007–2011Minister of Welfare and Social Services
Other roles
2013–2018Leader of the Opposition
2018-presentChairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel

Early lifeEdit

Isaac (also spelled as Yitzhak) Herzog, aka "Bougie", is the son of General Chaim Herzog, who served two terms as the Sixth President of Israel from 1983 to 1993, and Aura Ambache, founder of the Council for a Beautiful Israel.[3][4] His paternal grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, was the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland[4] from 1922 to 1935[3] and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1936 to 1959.

Herzog's father was born in Ireland and his mother was born in Egypt; their families were of Eastern European Jewish descent (from Poland, Russia, and Lithuania). He has two brothers and a sister.[4]

Herzog was born in Tel Aviv. When his father served as Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations for three years, Herzog lived in New York and attended the Ramaz School.[5] 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 studied law at Tel Aviv University. He worked at a law firm founded by his father, Herzog, Fox & Ne'eman.[6]

Political careerEdit

Although he did not win a seat in the 1999 elections, Herzog served as the Government Secretary in Ehud Barak's cabinet until 2001 when Barak was defeated by Ariel Sharon in a special election for Prime Minister.[6] In 1999, he was also investigated in the "Amutot Barak" scandal (a scandal involving allegations that the party funding law was violated), but maintained his silence.[6] The Attorney General, therefore, decided to close the case against him due to lack of evidence. From 2000 until 2003, he served as chairman of the Israel Anti-Drug Authority.

Herzog won a seat in the 2003 election as a member of the Labor Party, and was appointed Minister of Housing and Building at his request when Labor joined Ariel Sharon's coalition government on 10 January 2005. However, on 23 November 2005, he resigned from his cabinet post along with the rest of the party.

Herzog in a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, January 2014

Prior to the 2006 elections, Herzog won second place on Labor's list in the party's primaries. He was initially appointed Minister of Tourism in Ehud Olmert's Kadima-led coalition, but was reassigned to the Social Affairs ministry in March 2007 after Yisrael Beiteinu was awarded the Tourism Ministry following their late entry to the governing coalition, and was also appointed Minister of the Diaspora, Society and the Fight Against Antisemitism. He was again second on the party's list for the 2009 elections. Following the election, he was appointed Minister of Welfare & Social Services and Minister of the Diaspora, Society, and the Fight Against Antisemitism. In January 2009 he was appointed by PM Ehud Olmert as the Israel Government Coordinator for the provision of humanitarian aid to the population of Gaza. He later resigned from the cabinet after Ehud Barak left the Labor Party to establish Independence in January 2011.[7]

In 2011 Herzog was an unsuccessful candidate for the Labor Party leadership. He finished third in the primaries that year, after Shelly Yachimovich and Amir Peretz.[8]

Opposition leaderEdit

On 22 November 2013 Herzog was elected leader of the Labor Party, defeating incumbent Shelly Yachimovich by 58.5% to 41.5%.[9] In doing so, he became Leader of the Opposition. Whereas Yachimovich focused first on socioeconomic issues, Herzog prioritizes security and resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[5]

Ten days after the election, Herzog met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to pledge his support for the two-state solution.[10]

Herzog has reportedly reached out to Shas leader Aryeh Deri to increase cooperation between the two opposition factions.[11]

Isaac Herzog speaking at the Munich Security Conference 2015

In June 2014, Herzog criticized PM Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to engage the international community, failing to present a proposal for peace with Palestinians, and failure to work effectively with the President of the United States, Barack Obama. Herzog declared that Netanyahu's "loathing and hostility for Barack Obama" was one of his greatest failures, since it put Israel's security at risk.[12]

With the governing coalition dissolving and new elections expected in March 2015, Herzog called on Hatnua and Kadima parties to join his Labor Party in forming a new coalition. In an interview with YNET, he stated, "I am capable of replacing Netanyahu. I will do everything in order to establish a bloc before the elections."[13] Shortly thereafter, Herzog and Tzipi Livni, who was justice minister and is head of a centrist faction, announced they would campaign on a joint slate in the upcoming election in an effort to keep Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, from securing a fourth term as prime minister.[14] The joint list was named Zionist Union, winning 24 seats to Likud's 30 in the 2015 election, making it the largest Opposition faction.

In July 2017, Herzog was eliminated in the first round of the Labor party primaries. Avi Gabbay went on to win the leadership elections, however Herzog remained official leader of the opposition in the Knesset as Gabay was not an elected MK. However, after being elected chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Herzog resigned as Leader of the Opposition and from the Knesset. Tzipi Livni succeeded him as Leader of the Opposition, whilst Robert Tiviaev replaced him in the Knesset.

Chairman of the Jewish AgencyEdit

In June 2018 Herzog was unanimously elected chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.[15] Herzog marked bridging the gap between the Jewish people and the State of Israel as one of his objectives.[16] In an interview on Ynet news, Herzog stated that he views intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews as a plague to which there must be a solution.[17] On October 24, 2018, Herzog led a resolution to reaffirm the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors' commitment to the principles of a democratic Israel as emerging from the Declaration of Independence.[18] Following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Herzog expressed his concern from the rising anti-Semitism all over the world. [19] In the International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at the European Parliament in Brussels he urged the leaders of European countries to fight anti-Semitism and to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.[20] In March 2019 the Jewish Agency became the first public institution in Israel to help employees finance surrogacy services abroad so that they can become parents (this includes gay and single parents).[21]

Personal lifeEdit

Herzog is married to Michal, a lawyer, and has three sons. He resides in his childhood home in the Tzahala neighborhood of Tel Aviv.[22]


  1. ^ "Who is Isaac 'Booji' Herzog, Israel's newly elected Labor Party chairman?". Haaretz. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Herzog to become Jewish Agency head despite Netanyahu's opposition". The Jerusalem Post. 23 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b Druckman, Yaron (17 March 2015). "The Herzogs: Three generations of Israeli leadership". Ynetnews. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Ferber, Alona (9 March 2015). "The Herzog family tree: Israel's answer to the Kennedys". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b Ruth Margalit (30 January 2014). "Israeli Labor's New Leader Looking to Obama and de Blasio As Models". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Asher Schechter (1 December 2013). "The Bougieman: Much hope rests on small shoulders of Isaac Herzog". Haaretz. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  7. ^ Somfalvi, Attila (17 January 2011). "Labor ministers quit gov't after split". Ynetnews.
  8. ^ Lis, Jonathan (13 September 2011). "Labor primaries yield inconclusive results; Yachimovich and Peretz neck and neck". Haaretz.
  9. ^ Azulay, Moran (22 November 2013). "Drama in Labor party: Herzog beats Yachimovich for chairmanship". Ynetnews.
  10. ^ Laub, Karin (1 December 2013). "Israel's new opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, meets Palestine president, pledges support for peace deal". CTV News. Associated Press. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  11. ^ Yaakov, Yifa (2 December 2013). "Shas and Labor forge unlikely alliance". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  12. ^ "Netanyahu 'loathes' Obama, Israel's opposition leader charges". The Times of Israel. 6 June 2014.
  13. ^ Winer, Stuart (2 December 2014). "Opposition leader calls for center-left bloc to defeat PM". The Times of Israel.
  14. ^ Kershner, Isabel (10 December 2014). "Alliance Adds Twist to Israeli Elections". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Ahren, Raphael. "Herzog elected Jewish Agency head, vows to cooperate with government". Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  16. ^ Gur, Haviv Rettig. "Isaac Herzog sees hope for the Jewish Agency, and the fractured nation it serves". Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  17. ^ Bar, Roni (26 June 2018). "Opinion Typhus, Cholera and Intermarriage of U.S. Jews". Retrieved 9 April 2019 – via Haaretz.
  18. ^ Maltz, Judy (24 October 2018). "In Jab at Netanyahu's Policies, Top Jewish Organization Reaffirms Commitment to a Democratic Israel". Retrieved 9 April 2019 – via Haaretz.
  19. ^ "US and Israeli officials respond to synagogue shooting". Israel National News. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  20. ^ staff, T. O. I.; JTA. "Jewish Agency head to Euro Parliament: Jews no longer safe on streets of Europe". Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  21. ^ Maltz, Judy (3 March 2019). "In Landmark Move, Jewish Agency to Assist Gay Employees With Surrogacy Services". Retrieved 9 April 2019 – via Haaretz.
  22. ^ Sarid, Yossi (22 August 2008). "Is this security?". Haaretz. Retrieved 26 March 2015.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
Shelly Yachimovich
Leader of the Labor Party
Succeeded by
Avi Gabbay
New office Leader of the Zionist Union
Succeeded by
Avi Gabbay
Political offices
Preceded by
Shelly Yachimovich
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Tzipi Livni