Isaac Herzog, son of former president, elected president of Israel

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By Euronews  with AP
Isaac Herzog, Israel's new president
Isaac Herzog, Israel's new president   -  Copyright  Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Isaac Herzog has been elected as the new President of Israel, as opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu try to reach a last-ditch agreement on a new coalition government.

MPs voted for the former leader of the Labour Party and chairman of the Jewish Agency as the new president, making Herzog, 60, the eleventh president of the state.

The son of former president Chaim Herzog, replaces Reuven Rivlin in what is a largely honorary function.

He was elected with 87 votes against 26 for his opponent Miriam Peretz.

The election comes amid political turmoil in the country, with opposition politicians facing a midnight deadline to put forward their proposal for a coalition government, which would oust longtime Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, facing trial for corruption, has been at the helm of Israeli politics for 12 years, but his grip on power has loosened in the face of four inconclusive general elections in the space of two years.

Herzog, who hails from a prominent Israeli family, ran unsuccessfully against Netanyahu in the 2013 parliamentary elections.

His father, Chaim Herzog, was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations before being elected president.

His uncle, Abba Eban, was Israel’s first foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations and United States. His grandfather was the country’s first chief rabbi.

Herzog has served as head of the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit that works closely with the government to promote immigration to Israel, for the past three years since resigning from parliament.

Given his deep ties to the political establishment, he was seen as the favourite to win the presidency.

The president, while largely a ceremonial head of state, is tasked with picking a political party leader to form governing coalitions after parliamentary elections.

They also have the power to grant pardons — creating a potentially sensitive situation as Netanyahu stands trial for a series of corruption charges.