Courtesy of Herzog's Facebook page

Ithaca, N.Y. — Isaac Herzog has landed on front pages across the globe for his upstart challenge to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an election that is being held on Tuesday.


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It turns out Herzog has a connection to Ithaca. About four decades ago, Herzog studied here at Cornell University, according to Israeli media outlets.

Courtesy of Herzog’s Facebook page
Courtesy of Herzog’s Facebook page

Herzog does not appear to be a graduate from the university, but did study at Cornell for a period of time in the 1970s. (The Voice has been unable to track down the exact year.)

Haaretz, widely considered The New York Times of Israel, reported that Herzog attended a summer academic program at Cornell. i24 News, an Israeli media outlet, adds further that Herzog studied law at both Tel Aviv University and Cornell University.

Wrote Haaretz, in a story headlined “From sweet Manhattan schoolboy to Israel’s next prime minister?”:

“(Herzog) was this adorable, sweet, polite little boy who we knew would be a big deal,” says Shira Dicker, a publicist in New York who was in the same Ramaz graduating class.

Added The Daily Signal:

According to Herzog’s biography, in 1975, while his father served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, his family briefly moved to New York.

Herzog studied at both Cornell University and New York University before returning to Israel in 1978. He went on to study law at Tel Aviv University.

Herzog is poised to shock Israel — and the broader Middle East — if he can defeat Netanyahu, who has come under heated criticism recently for his comments about a two-state solution on Palestine.

Here’s The New York Times profile of Herzog from last week:

Mr. Herzog has surprised his supporters and detractors by maneuvering himself into position as a realistic contender for the post of prime minister, with polls showing the Zionist Union running neck and neck against Likud, or even slightly ahead of it.

With about 15 percent of Israeli voters still undecided, according to Rafi Smith, a leading Israeli pollster, and given Israel’s complicated system of coalition politics, the outcome of the election is impossible to forecast. But three months after Mr. Netanyahu called the early ballot, apparently confident of winning a third consecutive term against a weakened array of opponents, experts say the race has become unexpectedly open.

“People have tended to underestimate me time and time again, for many reasons,” Mr. Herzog said, citing his reputation for politeness and being “less rough” than the typical Israeli politician. “But I’ve shown success in everything I’ve done,” he added in an interview in the back of the car, as it zipped up the shoulder, bypassing the clogged lanes at rush hour.

(Also, see here for an interview Jeffrey Goldberg, a columnist for The Atlantic, recently conducted with Herzog.)

Netanyahu, Herzog’s right-leaning opponent, studied political science at Harvard University.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.