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Israel: Isaac Herzog elected as president in Knesset ballot

Sixty-year-old former head of the Labor Party is also the son of previous president, Chaim Herzog
Isaac Herzog has held various ministerial posts, including as Labor Party leader from 2013 to 2018 (AFP)

Frontrunner Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency and former head of the Labor Party, has been elected as Israel's 11th president.

Herzog, the son of the country's sixth president, Chaim Herzog, took 87 votes in the secret Knesset first ballot, having required 61 to win.

The only other contender, former headteacher Miriam Peretz, an Israel Prize winner who lost two sons during their army service, received 27 votes.

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Over the last week, the two candidates had been forced to wage speedy campaigns due to the short time available before the vote. 

Last month's Israel-Palestine violence had interrupted much of the campaign period and prevented them from engaging Knesset members.

"It is essential, really essential, to tend to the open wounds that have been opened in our society recently," Herzog said in parliament, accepting the appointment.

"We must defend Israel's international standing and its good name in the family of nations, battle anti-semitism and hatred of Israel, and preserve the pillars of our democracy."

'Soft-spoken style'

Israel's outgoing president, Reuven Rivlin, will step down from the largely ceremonial position on 9 July.

Herzog, 60, held various ministerial posts, including as Labor Party leader from 2013 to 2018, a period that included his unsuccessful run for prime minister in 2015.

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According to a profile in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: "Herzog suffered throughout his political career due to his perceived lacking the warmth and common touch current president Rivlin has in spades.

"His polite and soft-spoken style has often been mocked as weak in Israel’s alpha-male political culture."

Herzog's mother Aura was born in Ismailia, Egypt, to a Jewish family of Russian and Polish origin.

His father Chaim was born in Belfast, the son of Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, the first chief rabbi of Ireland.

Wednesday's vote came as politicians from across the spectrum were holding 11th-hour negotiations to cobble together a new administration aimed at ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 straight years in office.