Israeli prime minister appoints Mike Herzog as new ambassador to Washington

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday nominated Mike Herzog as Israel’s next ambassador to Washington. Herzog, who is one of Israel’s most experienced and respected strategic thinkers, is the brother of Israel’s President Issac Herzog.

Why it matters: Herzog will be a key player in building the relationship between the new Israeli government and the Biden administration — navigating the differences on thorny issues like the Iran nuclear deal and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The big picture: The Israeli government grew much closer to the Republican Party during Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years as prime minister, mainly under the Trump administration.

Between the lines: Herzog is very different from Netanyahu confidant Ron Dermer, who served as Israel ambassador to Washington for eight years and was perceived by Democrats as a Republican political operative.

  • Herzog, who worked in recent years as a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is very well known and respected in U.S. foreign policy and national security circles. He has close relationships with both Democrats and Republicans.

  • Herzog has personal and professional relationships with many senior officials in the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and many other senior White House, State Department, Pentagon and CIA officials.

  • Herzog is a centrist and a moderate. He supports a two-state solution and opposed Netanyahu’s public confrontation with Obama over the Iran deal – including his speech to Congress in March 2015.

Flashback: Herzog, 69, is a reserve lieutenant general and served for 40 years in Israel’s military intelligence and ministry of defense. He was chief of staff and military adviser to four Israeli ministers of defense.

  • Herzog was involved in numerous rounds of talks between Israel and the Palestinians — most recently between 2009-2014 under the Obama administration — and worked very closely with both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

  • He served as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s envoy to the secret talks with Palestinian President Abbas’ confidant Hussein Agha between 2013 and 2014.

What’s next: Herzog is expected to be confirmed by the government soon and could take part in Bennett’s trip to Washington later this August.

  • Herzog will be appointed for a four-year term, and will stay as ambassador when foreign minister Yair Lapid rotates into the prime minister’s job in less than two years — if the government manages to hold together until then.

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