NEW YORK — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has chosen retired Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, President Isaac Herzog’s brother, to serve as Israeli ambassador to the United States, a coalition source close to the premier confirmed to The Times of Israel on Thursday.
The process isn’t complete, as Herzog still needs to be confirmed by the cabinet, but Bennett’s office is hoping to bring the matter to a vote at Sunday’s meeting. Herzog’s candidacy was first reported by the Jerusalem Post.
Herzog, now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, began his military career as an infantryman and fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur War before moving to Military Intelligence and later serving as head of the IDF’s Strategic Division.
In the past he served as military secretary to defense minister Shaul Mofaz and chief of staff to defense minister Ehud Barak. Herzog is also a veteran negotiator in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, including the talks that took place in 2013-2014, when Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was also involved in the decision, as he and Bennett are hoping to use the same envoy for the government’s four-year term, including the second half, when Lapid is slated to serve as prime minister.
While a number of individuals launched their own personal campaigns for the job, only a small group of candidates were seriously considered for the post, the coalition source said. They included former IDF Military Intelligence director Amos Yadlin — who frequently briefed Bennett on defense issues while serving as the head of the Institute for National Security Studies — and Yaakov Katz, a former aide to Bennett who now edits the Jerusalem Post. Also weighed briefly was former Air Force commander Amir Eshel.
But once Herzog entered the picture, his candidacy became a “slam dunk,” said the source. “He checks all the boxes.”
Bennett’s office was looking for someone well versed in US-Israel ties and who has a previous relationship with the premier.
Herzog is also well-connected in Washington, including with senior members of the Biden administration.
The incumbent ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan, announced in June that he will step down from the post as soon as a new envoy is appointed. Erdan, a former minister for the Likud party, is also ambassador to the United Nations and will continue to serve in that role.
A source said last month that Bennett was hoping to have the new ambassador in in the US by the time the prime minister arrives in DC for his first visit to the White House. No date has been set for Bennett’s meeting with US President Joe Biden, but the premier’s aides were in Washington this week for meetings with senior White House aides, with the goal of nailing down a date for this month.