Mike Herzog, president’s brother and Brig. Gen. (Ret), named as ambassador to US

Veteran adviser to defense ministers, peace negotiator to serve during both Bennett and Lapid’s terms as PM, pending cabinet approval

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Michael Herzog is interviewed by VOA Persian on August 11, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Michael Herzog is interviewed by VOA Persian on August 11, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Friday that retired Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog will serve as Israel’s next ambassador to the US.

Herzog’s appointment will be brought before the cabinet for its approval as early as Sunday, according to a coalition source close to the prime minister.

If confirmed, Herzog — the brother of President Isaac Herzog — will remain in the post during Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s two-plus year term as prime minister that begins in September 2023, Bennett’s office said, indicating that the government’s two leaders cooperated in the decision.

After several weeks of consideration, Bennett decided to go with Herzog “in light of his rich and long experience in the security and political arenas along with his in-depth knowledge of the strategic issues facing the State of Israel, especially the Iranian nuclear program,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Lapid also welcomed the announcement, calling Herzog “exactly the right person to serve in this strategically important role.”

“I look forward to working with him to further strengthen and deepen the Israel-US relationship,” Lapid said.

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

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.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s nominee for Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael “Mike” Herzog. (Courtesy)

More recently, he served as a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Jewish People Policy Institute think tanks.

“The prime minister congratulated Herzog on his nomination and wished him great success in the new role, given the significant challenges in the political arena,” Bennett’s office said.

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, a coalition source close to Bennett 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 is now editor of 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 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 senior advisers were in Washington this week for meetings with senior White House aides, with the goal of nailing down a date for this month.

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