'President Biden is a true friend of Israel'

New Israeli ambassador to US Mike Herzog pledges to keep Israel a nonpartisan issue

Retired brigadier general, brother of the president, replaces former Likud minister Gilad Erdan in Washington, representing the changed Israeli government

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Israel's Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog. (Courtesy)
Israel's Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog. (Courtesy)

WASHINGTON — Retired IDF brigadier general Mike Herzog started his first working day as Israel’s ambassador to the United States on Monday, kicking off a new chapter in the Jewish state’s ties with Washington.

Herzog landed in the US capital on Friday and has already been holding marathon meetings and hosting consuls general whom he’ll be managing in the coming years. He will also be hosting Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who are in the US this week for meetings with US officials and Jewish community leaders.

Herzog replaced Gilad Erdan, who held the position along with the post of Israel’s ambassador to the UN for the past year. Erdan, a longtime Likud minister, was appointed during the previous government by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When the new unity government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was sworn in last June, Erdan announced that he would step down from his post in Washington in order to allow the new coalition to appoint someone more aligned with its agenda to the sensitive post. However, Erdan will remain in the US as Israel’s envoy to the UN.

During his first day on the job, Herzog met with the staff at the Israeli embassy in Washington to thank them for their work. He also used the opportunity to comment on the job that lies before him.

“The United States is the most important ally of Israel. The special relation[ship] between the two countries [is] based on shared values and close ties between the two peoples,” he said in comments released by the embassy in a statement.

“There is no doubt that [US] President [Joe] Biden is a true friend of Israel. Together, with the administration, we will work to deepen our cooperation,” Herzog added.

He went on to stress the importance of maintaining what has long been bipartisan support for Israel in Washington. Recent legislation for supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system that passed overwhelmingly in the House last month shows that this is still the case, but like most issues in the US, it has also been turned into a political football in recent years.

“Bipartisan support for Israel is a fundamental component of our relations with the United States, and I intend to work with both Democrats and Republicans to keep Israel a non-partisan issue,” Herzog said.

Herzog, 69, is the brother of President Isaac Herzog. He served for some 40 years in the IDF, filling a number of senior positions, including head of the army’s Strategic Planning Division as well as military secretary and chief of staff to four defense ministers.

Herzog is also a veteran negotiator in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, including the talks that took place in 2013-2014, when Netanyahu was prime minister. More recently, he served as a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Jewish People Policy Institute think tanks. Herzog is also well-connected in Washington, including with senior members of the Biden administration.

Herzog will remain in the post during Lapid’s two-plus-year term as prime minister that begins in September 2023, Bennett’s office said last month, indicating that the government’s two leaders cooperated in the decision.

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