June 12, 2023
Since his election by the Knesset in 2021, President Isaac Herzog has used his position as a platform to try to mend the social fabric of the Jewish state.
Herzog sat down with AJC CEO Ted Deutch at AJC Global Forum 2023 in Tel Aviv to discuss how and why he has used the office of the president to affect constructive change. Here are three key takeaways from the conversation.
1) Unity matters
As contentious judicial reforms have brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets for months of protest, Herzog said it’s important that the differences don’t divide Jewish people around the world. In April, he launched “Kol Ha’am—Voice of the People: The President’s Initiative for Worldwide Jewish Dialogue,” a new initiative aimed at connecting the Jewish people with constructive conversation and identifying new young Jewish leaders.
“I find it actually a healthy process where we air out our differences and talk to each other,” Herzog said, adding that consensus on the core issues in question matters not only for Israelis but the Jewish diaspora as a whole.
“We are a small nation of about 15 million plus Jews around the globe in a sea of 8 billion human beings,” he added. “We have a role to play... We have a story. We have a role, and therefore we should protect and preserve the unity of our people amidst all of its differences … I also feel that in this room, the Jewish world demands us not to be torn apart.”
“I have huge respect for American Jewish Committee for its historic role, for what it does for the Jewish world, and Israel.”
2) From Generation to Generation
Herzog told the 400 high school students, college students, and young professionals in the audience as part of AJC’s Alexander Young Leadership Department that they are an essential part of the Jewish future and their leadership is needed.
“You will have to take a lead role and add another chapter in the history of the Jewish people,” he said. “And I would say that one is the challenge of unity, meaning not uniformity, but unity, meaning the respect, deep love, and affection between the nation-state of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and its people and the Jewish Diaspora wherever it may be. All Jews must be able to practice their beliefs without fears and with no harassment and be connected in their hearts to the State of Israel.”
3) Abraham Accords Keep Moving Forward
Herzog also emphasized the importance of and excitement surrounding the Abraham Accords.
“I believe that the Abraham Accords, which have followed the trailblazing peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt, are a sea change, a sea change in history, a sea change in world affairs in the region, because there is an opening of a real dialogue between Jews and Muslims in the region,” Herzog said, referring to the normalization agreements between Israel with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and later Morocco.
He also expressed hope that the current conflict in Sudan would end so it too could join the Accords. “And I truly believe that we should make an effort that the next chapter will be with Saudi Arabia.”