New government formed; Isaac Herzog 11th president of Israel: Israel Update

June 4, 2021

Israel's Yesh Atid party leader, Yair Lapid, officially informed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin that a new governing coalition had been formed, and that it was preparing to replace Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Wednesday night, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Lapid and Ra'am (United Arab List) chairman Mansour Abbas signed an agreement that is the country’s first coalition deal ever signed by an Arab party. The power-sharing arrangement would make Bennett the prime minister until 2023, after which Lapid would take over the premiership. The first act of the newly formed coalition will likely be voting out the sitting Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a senior member of the ruling Likud party and a Netanyahu confidant. Efforts to remove Levin began Wednesday when the Joint List party backed a request for the Knesset Speaker to hold a vote on his replacement. Removing Levin would allow the new government to be voted in as early as Monday. Faced with losing his seat after 12 consecutive years, Netanyahu held an “emergency meeting” with his allies and urged supporters to pressure Yamina lawmakers with protests. Meanwhile, Bennett has been extended full Shin Bet protection after receiving death threats.


Isaac Herzog was elected the 11th president of Israel on Wednesday, after winning more than two-thirds of the votes in Israel's Knesset. Herzog, 60, will succeed Reuven Rivlin, who is set to leave office next month. The incoming president comes from a long line of Israeli public servants; Herzog's father, Chaim Herzog, was Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, and his uncle, Abba Eban, was Israel's first foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations and the United States. His grandfather was the country's first chief rabbi. Herzog will hold office for a single, seven-year term, starting on July 9. Israel's president is regarded as a ceremonial head of state; the president is tasked with tapping a political party leader to form governing coalitions after parliamentary elections. The president also has the power to grant pardons, which could, theoretically, impact Prime Minister Netanyahu's upcoming trial stemming from corruption allegations. US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both congratulated Herzog this week in statements that sought to reaffirm the close partnership that exists between the US and Israel.  


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the US State Department on Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and US efforts to return to a nuclear deal with Iran. While Israel has long been outspoken about opposing any return to an Iranian nuclear deal, Gantz took a much softer tone in meetings with US officials—a clear sign that Israel is seeking a new approach to foreign relations, given the current US leadership. 


Our Jewish Community Relations Council of Cincinnati has created a resource page for the recent events in Israel, Gaza, and surrounding areas, and will continue to monitor the evolving situation. Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) continues to compile the latest information and analysis. Also, your support for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s Annual Campaign is making crisis response here and in Israel possible. Click here to help meet these urgent needs.


Shabbat Shalom, 


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


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