Underdog Isaac Herzog could be Israel's next prime minister
By Oren Liebermann, CNN
Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT) March 16, 2015
CNN)Outside of Israeli politics, Isaac Herzog is not a well-known name. That may change on March 17, when Israelis head to the polls for election day. In the final round of polling before the elections, Herzog's Zionist Union party is in the lead, holding a four-seat edge over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.
"I believe in a certain type of leadership that is not always customary in this region. I'm not a general. I don't give orders. I know how to work together," he says.
Throughout the campaign, Herzog has been seen as an underdog, lacking the charisma and the English fluency of Netanyahu. Herzog says that doesn't bother him at all.
"I have always suffered from a certain underestimation," Herzog said, "and I have always surprised." He promised, "I will surprise again, and I will show my leadership and stamina."
Herzog began his political career in 2003, when he first won a seat in the Knesset with the Labor Party. He held a variety of ministerial positions, including minister of housing and construction, minister of tourism, and minister of welfare and social services, before becoming leader of the Labor Party in 2013. In those elections, he also became the leader of the opposition, as Benjamin Netanyahu won another term as prime minister.
But when Netanyahu called for early elections in 2014, Herzog pegged his bid for the premiership on social reform.
"What I run for is social justice. I will change the nature of the division of wealth in a fair and more balanced way, close inequality and give a sense of purpose to the people here in the workplace, in the housing, and in the cost of living," promised Herzog.
Before the election, the issue of a nuclear Iran garnered international headlines as it further aggravated tense relations between the White House and Netanyahu. Herzog, in a speech almost immediately after Netanyahu's address to Congress, promised to work with the United States and European powers, not against, to ensure the safety of Israel. He echoed that sentiment in an interview with CNN's Elise Labott.
"A nuclear-armed Iran is dangerous to world peace, is dangerous to our region, is dangerous to Israel. As leader of Israel, I will never accept a nuclear-armed Iran. Never. And all options are on the table."
In these elections, negotiations with the Palestinians haven't been one of the major issues, but Herzog promised to restart the stalled peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
"I will do my best to ignite a political process with our Palestinian neighbors. ... Although I cannot promise 100% results, I promise 100% effort."
Herzog comes from Israeli political royalty. His grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, was the first chief rabbi of the state of Israel. His father, Chaim Herzog, was an Army general, an ambassador to the United Nations and the president of Israel. Herzog believes it is his destiny to be the next prime minister of Israel.
"What I carry with me is a unique legacy, a family legacy, but most important, an experience that brings me to be able to lead our nation."