Israel's parliament is set to inaugurate Isaac Herzog on Wednesday as the nation's president, a largely ceremonial position whose purpose is forge to national unity and serve as the country's moral compass.
The inauguration ceremony at the Knesset Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem is typically conducted with grand pomp: honor guards in dress uniforms, red carpet, mounted police escort and a swearing in on a Bible, followed by the blowing of rams' horns by military rabbis.
Herzog, scion of a prominent Zionist family, will succeed Reuven Rivlin as Israel's 11th president and is to hold office for a single seven-year term. His father, Chaim Herzog, served as president in the 1980s after a term as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, and his grandfather, Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, was the country's first chief rabbi. His uncle, Abba Eban, served as foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations and United States.
“The truth is that I am a little envious of you,” Rivlin said in a letter to Herzog published on Twitter. “In a short while you will discover what a great and wonderful privilege you have” to be president of all of Israel’s various communities — Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, young and old.
Herzog, 60, was elected to the presidency by the Knesset last month. He had previously served as head of the Labor Party and head of the opposition in parliament. After leaving politics in 2018, he served as head of the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit organization that works closely with the Israeli government to promote Jewish immigration to Israel and to serve Jewish communities overseas.
Taking office at a time of deep divisions in Israeli society, Herzog said upon his election that he intends to be "the president of everyone” and work to preserve Israel's democracy.
While most of the office's function is to receive foreign dignitaries and other ceremonial roles, the president has the power to grant pardons. That could become part of the national agenda if former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on trial for corruption charges, is ever convicted.
He also is responsible for selecting a political party leader to form a governing coalition and serve as prime minister after parliamentary elections — a task Rivlin has done five times while in office, most recently after the March 23 parliamentary election.
Herzog's inauguration comes less than a month after Israel swore in a new government under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who struck a coalition agreement with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Netanyahu was ousted from office after a 12-year stint as prime minister and now serves as opposition leader.