Yaakov Herzog, the Legendary Israeli Statesman Who Could Have Been Chief Rabbi of Britain

Born in Ireland in 1921, the Israeli rabbi and diplomat Yaakov Herzog died 50 years ago. Among his many admirers was the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin. David M. Weinberg recalls Herzog’s career and legacy:

He was, I believe, the only person over the past 100 years of Jewish history who was considered equally qualified—in religious scholarship and diplomatic skill—to serve as chief rabbi of Britain and as director general of the Israeli prime minister’s office. In fact, Yaakov Herzog was simultaneously offered both jobs in 1965, and had to make a choice. He chose to stay in Israel.

Herzog was born into an illustrious family. His saintly and scholarly father was Isaac Halevi Herzog, who was chief rabbi of Israel until his passing in 1959. His brother was Major General Chaim Herzog, who also served as Israel’s sixth president (1983-1993). His daughter, the late Shira Herzog, headed the Canada-Israel Committee (and was my distinguished boss before I moved to Israel). His nephew, Isaac Herzog, is the esteemed current president of Israel.

David Ben-Gurion, to whom Herzog was a trusted personal advisor, called Herzog Tsafnat Paneaḥ, meaning the explainer of hidden things, or the man who reveals mysteries.

One of those mysteries that Herzog helped to explain was that of the rebirth of Israel; Weinberg cites his words:

I do not believe in the distinction between the secular and the spiritual realms; I do not think that is has any place in Judaism. I, at any rate, cannot grasp nor understand the significance of the return to Zion against the background of historical continuity without a spiritual conception. . . . [A]s vindication of spirit, as validation of tenacious faith, as proof of the Jewish people’s right of return to its indigenous home, Israel’s establishment and advancement is a very big deal indeed. . . . Israel represents a vindication of faith and prayer through the ages; it is a symbol of revival, a message of hope, indeed lasting evidence of the integrity of the spirit.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Isaac Herzog, Israeli history, Religious Zionism

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship