Herzog focused on the important geopolitical issues facing Israel in his discussion; Demonstration by Palestinian student group disrupted the event.

Ambassador Herzog in conversation with Scott Lasensky (left) and Ilai Saltzman (right) on Oct. 27. (Steven Anthony/Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies)

Eden Binder

Staff Writer


Michael Herzog, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, spoke to students at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Thursday.

A retired IDF Brigadier General, Herzog was nominated as the ambassador by former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in 2021.

Herzog is well-connected in the Israeli political world and the brother of the country’s current president, Isaac Herzog. 

Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, Stephanie Shonekan, introduced Herzog to the crowd, crediting Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies for bringing Herzog to campus.

“The Gildenhorn Institute has always made the most of its proximity to Washington DC, and this event is just another example of that,” she said.

Herzog was enthusiastic about talking to students. Freshman journalism major Einav Tsach, who attended the event, felt the enthusiasm was genuine. 

“He seemed like he had a very welcoming attitude and he really did want to speak with young people like us who are very interested in Israel and very passionate about the subject, and I appreciated that,” he said.

During the talk, Herzog focused on Iran’s threat to Israeli security.

“Iran has become a destabilizing force in the Middle East. It is a problem not only for Israel but for other stabilizing forces in the Middle East,” Herzog said.

Herzog also spoke extensively about the Russia-Ukraine War,, and expressed concern about the alliance between Russia and Iran. 

“We see a relationship developing between Iran and Russia, which is a concern to us.

There is ongoing cooperation between these two countries and this nexus is becoming an ongoing challenge for [Israel].”

Herzog was also not confident in any quick resolution of the war.

“It will probably be a long and drawn out conflict,” he said.

However, Herzog was optimistic about the recent protests against Iran’s current government. The protests were triggered by the death of 22 year old Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iranian police forces. Herzog believes current protests will contribute to the eventual downfall of Iran’s current regime.

“Historically [these events] will be looked at as a milestone in toppling this regime. It may take years, as communism did, but I believe the current Iranian regime will eventually fall.”

Herzog also celebrated the recent Abraham Accords, which have normalized relations between Israel and neighboring Arab countries including Bahrain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco, and Sudan.

“It’s not only a peace between governments, it is a peace between peoples. I believe this is key to the development of peace and stability in our region. We want everyone in the region to look at this as a success story,” he said of the accords.

Maryland’s Students for Justice in Palestine, protested Herzog’s visit in person and disavowed it on their Instagram page, describing Herzog as a “war criminal” because of the positions he held in the Israeli Defense Forces between 2001 and 2009.

“We say, in no uncertain terms, no war criminals are welcome on our campus,” the group said in an Instagram post.

The protestors started up around 3:45, about forty five minutes before Herzog started to speak. Many of the protestors had on sunglasses and masks to hide their faces, with one waving the Palestinian flag. 

The protestors displayed signs stating that “Herzog is Complicit on Genocide” and “No to Zionist Normalization.” They later started chanting “long live the intifada”and “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea.” 

Tsach, who took pictures of the protestors, said he was initially surprised by their presence, but didn’t feel threatened.

“At least when I was there it didn’t seem like they were being aggressive in any way. I came close and took a few pictures, but I did not feel threatened,” he said.

Herzog discussed Israeli-American diplomatic relations, and seemed confident in the relationship’s strength when describing how he and his brother were greeted warmly by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

“We had our president visit DC yesterday, and when we visited Speaker Pelosi she handed a bipartisan invitation for our president to speak to both houses of Congress on the anniversary of Israel’s sovereignty, which was a great surprise for us.”

When asked by Israeli Studies Professor Ilai Saltzman about inside information on his visit, Herzog shared his positive impressions of President Joe Biden and shared his optimism regarding Israeli-American relations. 

“I will say that the meeting with President Biden was extremely warm and friendly. He is truly warm towards Israel,” Herzog said.

Herzog also spoke about his optimism surrounding Israel as it gets closer to its 75th anniversary of independence.

“75 years on, I strongly believe that Israel is a success story. We have a strong democracy and economy and I have great hope looking ahead towards the future,” he said.


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