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His Excellency President
Yitzchok Katz, c. 2020.
|President of Yisrael|
|Assumed office |
February 3rd, 2020
|Monarch||Hezekiah III (2020-present)|
|Preceded by||Noah Feldman|
|Foreign Minister of Yisrael|
January 3rd, 2015 – February 3rd, 2020
|Preceded by||Ozriel Kominsky|
|Succeeded by||Ariel Goldblatt|
|Member of Knesset (TA-Yerushalayim)|
January 6th, 2004 – January 3rd, 2015
|Preceded by||Moshe Yaakov Zelikovich|
|Succeeded by||Chanoch Horowitz|
|Yerushalayim City Council, District 16|
January 24th, 1994 – January 3rd, 2004
|Preceded by||Nasan Ever|
|Succeeded by||Iyov Gotenberg|
|Born||March 27th, 1967|
Yerushalayim, Yerushalayim District
|Political party||Royalist Conservative Party (2019-present)|
Torah Achdus (1980-2019)
|Spouse(s)||Ruchel Emunah (née Eisenberger)|
|Alma mater||B.T.L., Mir Yeshiva, J.D., King David University School of Law|
|Profession||Politician, Lawyer, Civil servant, Functionary, Intelligence officer|
Yitzchok L. Katz (born March 27th, 1967), is a prominent Yisraeli politician who is the current President of Yisrael. He has served previously as Foreign Minister, a Member of Knesset, and in local office. He was a longtime member of the Torah Achdus party, before joining the Royalist Conservatives in advance of running in their 2020 primary for President.
He attended the most prestigious yeshiva in the world, and later served his national service year interning with the Royal Yisraeli Intelligence Service. Afterwards, he attended law school and became a civil servant. Within a few years, he ran for public office, becoming elected to Yerushalayim's City Council in a major Chareidi neighborhood.
A decade later, he ran and won a Knesset seat, which he held for 11 years. During this time, his political star rose and he became a major power-broker in the Torah Achdus party, eventually directly participating in its 2009 New Chareidi coup and realigning the third-party towards the Conservatives. In late 2014, Ozriel Kominsky resigned in scandal as Foreign Minister towards the end of the first Feldman term. In a "rightward move" to shore up his right flank ahead of the 2016 elections, Noah Feldman picked Katz as Kominsky's successor. In the Cabinet role, Feldman and Katz grew close, and eventually Feldman positioned the other as his heir-in-waiting. As part of this effort, Feldman convinced Katz to party switch, which he did after receiving Torah Achdus leader Moshe Lippman's blessing.
Katz ran as the front-runner in the 2020 Conservative primary, scaring off potential major opponents such as then-Yerushalayim Mayor David Roth and then-Vice-President Yisroel Sayegh. After winning the Conservative nod, Katz faced off initially against Constitutional Liberal Party nominee Yosef Kaduri, a left-wing firebrand. As he began pulling ahead of Kaduri, a centrist revolt by Con-Lib rising star Reuven Goldschmidt fractured the Left Bloc in two, as well as reordering Katz's coalition with the loss of Action Yisrael to Goldschmidt's AfY.
Katz won a decisive Electoral College victory and became President of Yisrael. Early in his term, he has confronted the the growing crisis in Gran Aligonia as well as guiding stronger, growing ties with Latium and managing the sudden Hezekian Reaction.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Political career
- 2.1 Yerushalayim City Council (1994-2004)
- 2.2 Member of Knesset (2004-2015)
- 2.3 Foreign Minister (2015-2020)
- 3 President of Yisrael
- 3.1 2020 campaign
- 3.2 Political positions
- 3.2.1 Domestic policy
- 3.2.2 Foreign Policy
- 4 Political views
- 5 Personal life and family
Early life and education
Katz was born on March 27, 1967 (Shushan Purim), to businessman Shmuel Avrohom and Shandie Katz (neé Rothman) in the Ovadia Yosef Memorial Hospital in Yerushalayim, Yerushalayim District, Yisrael. He was one of nine children, being the first son. He was born on Shushan Purim, a particularly fortuitous time in the Jewish calendar, as well as being one of the first generation of children born after the Fourth West Scipian War. His father had been called up from the reserves for the Royal Yisraeli Defense Forces during the war.
He was raised in a series of Chareidi neighborhoods in the capital city, first in Kiryas Moshe, and then in middle-school his family settled in Har Nof. He graduated top of his day school and yeshiva high school, before going to learn in the famed Mir Yeshiva in the Old City.
Like many Chareidim, he opted for a non-military track for his year national service, choosing to intern in the signals intelligence division of the RYIS. Afterwards, he applied and joined law school.
While at the Mir, he used a shadchan to begin dating, and was introduced to Ruchel Emunah Eisenberger after 6 months. They dated and were engaged after twelve weeks, and were married in 1988.
After law school, he became a public prosecutor in the Yerushalayim city government, a position he held for a few years before he ran for City Council.
Yerushalayim City Council (1994-2004)
Member of Knesset (2004-2015)
Foreign Minister (2015-2020)
List of foreign crises
2016 Latin succession crisis
2017-2018 Sydalene Revolution
2018 Midnight Affair
2019-2020 protests in Gran Aligonia
President of Yisrael
Conservative Party primary
A handful of days before the presidential election, the entire race was upended by the live televised address of the new monarch, King Hezekiah III. Hezekiah all-but-encouraged Yisraeli voters to back Katz and his Conservatives, and even more stunningly declared a 'royalist counterrevolution,' invoking solemn-used royal reserve powers to strike the Royal Reform Acts of what he called their impositions on the king's traditional prerogatives. Although Katz was the beneficiary of this chain of events, neither he nor his senior staff have any warning of it, as top advisors to the campaign leaked to the media that the Conservative nominee and presidential front-runner was "completely stunned" by the sudden moves of the new king.
Partial repeal of the Royal Reform Acts
After his inauguration, Katz's new domestic and foreign policy was partially hijacked and overshadowed by the still-new fallout of Hezekiah's new royal regime. On the first day of his administration, Katz assembled his new Cabinet and discussed writing and pushing through a formal repeal bill through the Knesset for the monarchy-related provisions that Hezekiah had already made null and void by royal decree. His newly-enlarged Right Bloc majority, including his core Royalist Conservative Party and their coalition allies, Torah Achdus and the Northern League all signaled their support for the partial repeal bill.
In late February, the partial repeal act was passed on a 90-48-4 vote, with all of the Right Bloc MKs, plus a few right-wing MKs from Action Yisrael voting in favor, and the rest of the HRM Opposition voting against the bill, though a handful of AfY and Con-Lib MKs abstained.
Early YeMep clashes with Shomrim over internal security
The Royal Yisraeli Special Political Police, the sole internal security organ under the King's control, was increasingly bold in the days and weeks after Hezekiah's enthronement. The monarch's younger brother, Prince Yehuda, formerly a family black sheep and controversial booster of global far-right politics, was appointed to head the YeMep as the new chief inspector following Hezekiah's televised address and the sacking of the previous head. Within days, Yehuda brought in close royalists to the agency, and it began to tread on the jurisdiction of its rival agency, the Royal Yisraeli Security Service, who answered to the Interior Minister and ultimately the President.
A February 17, 2020 protest in Ashkelon turned contentious after YeMep personnel in special weapons gear blocked off several main avenues to the 1,000-strong crowd of anti-Katz and anti-Hezekiah protestors, causing a standoff and a few minor scuffles, with liberal protestors throwing petty items like bottles and other small items at the security agents. A March 5, 2020 political demonstration by opponents of the government was also disruptive, as YeMep agents in riot armor formed a line in front of regular riot control police, wearing vests with the acronym "YeMep" in Hebrew, although riot control is not a normal agency task, causing an uproar on liberal-leaning media outlets and social media.
Tensions came to a head in early April just before Pesach between the YeMep and Shomrim, with Katz bringing in King's Minister, royal brother, and key regime architect Prince Michoel to mediate, with both agency heads agreeing to a clear division of duties, cooling off the inter-agency squabbling.
Alleged interference in presidential domain by the King
Since the day after the televised address, allies and confidants of the President allege that he finds the Counterrevolution and the King's accused "strong-arming" of public policy "vexing," and that there is lingering annoyance by Katz towards Hezekiah and the royals for, as one close friend told the Royal Yerushalayim Dispatch, "constant overshadowing [Katz]'s agenda, whether domestically [or] foreign policy wise [...] and acting like the head of government as well as head of state, even though [President] Katz and [King] Hezekiah often see eye-to-eye on policy."
When this first was reported in late February, the Presidential Palace issued a strong denial of this claim, saying that "the President and His Majesty are partners in ensuring a new era of peace, prosperity, and order reign in Yisrael."
Despite this public denial, leaks from people in the Katz orbit still privately report that the president is frequently frustrated with royal interference in presidential affairs, whether through the unverified reports of YeMep agents operating in Gran Aligonia without Katz's consultation, or the king and his court's recurrent "instructions" to Katz on various domestic and foreign policies of interest to the monarch, though constitutionally the president is the chief diplomat and decider of the country's foreign policy.
Katz 2020 fiscal reforms
In late February 2020, after the successful passage of the partial repeal bill for the 1952 Royal Reform Acts, Katz and his Cabinet turned their attention to economics. The 2010s economic boom that started midway through the first term of his predecessor, Noah Feldman, c. 2014, was showing signs of overheating and with growth rates down from 4-5% to 2.5-3% in 2019, Katz and his economic advisors mulled a fiscal reform package.
By February 25, 2020, Katz's Presidential Palace working group released a 50-odd page report discussing key industries, with economic stressors and statistics underlining vulnerable parts of the economy. A few days later, Katz's Finance Minister, Alexander Keiseberg, and Economic Development Minister, Mendel Feinstein, proposed 10-point fiscal reform package, including payroll tax cuts, increases on state royalties on natural gas production on national lands, levying a tax on property in urban zones to dis-incentivize skyrocketing housing costs in the cities, applying a general 10% tariff on goods from Kiso Pact countries, cutting national government payroll by 15% through cuts, severance buyouts, and attrition, cutting the excise tax on mortgages by 25%, among other things.
Certain industries immediately raised concerns, especially the energy and housing sectors as well as corners of the diplomatic community. A number of persuadable Conservative MKs were lobbied by the affected industries, and a vote to introduce the bill was delayed from March 3 to March 5. An emerging bloc of Conservatives, led by Moshe Wein (RC-Rishon LeZion) balked at the natural gas royalty increase as well as the implementation of a targeted national property tax in urban areas, arguing it could be the premise for a future Left Bloc government to justify levying the same tax scheme nationwide without geographic limit. The Torah Achdus caucus objected to the government job cuts, arguing a number of Chareidim have found employment with the national government.
On March 5, three Conservative MKs threatened to vote against the bill moving further through the Budget and Tax Committees, enough to tip the 9-4 Right Bloc-Left Bloc composition to defeat the plan, Katz ordered it delayed further to the next week and the party rebels brought in that Sunday to discuss their concerns and secure their support.
On Sunday, March 8, a boisterous crowd of lawmakers, power-brokers, and lobbyists appeared at the Presidential Palace, and Katz and his economic team listened to each group before they huddled and returned with counter-proposals to each concern. This continued over the course of the whole afternoon, with a break for the men to daven mincha before resuming the talks. It carried long enough that the president had a catered dinner for the participants. The revised plan, called the "8-point proposal," kept much of the original bill. It reduced the government job cuts from 15% to 8%, focused on attrition and severance buyouts and focusing cuts on social welfare agencies, known to be bastions of liberal-leaning Chiloni workers, which satisfied Torah Achdus. The natural gas royalties were scrapped, satisfying the energy district Conservatives, and an excise tax was substituted on high-value properties in urban areas, achieving the same affect to ease housing costs and encourage resident flight to suburban and exurban areas with cheaper housing costs, which mollified the anti-tax Conservative clique.
The week of March 9, Katz had feelers sent to conservative MKs in the United Center Bloc and the Left Bloc to see in any would consider supporting the proposal. A few Action Yisrael and Alternative for Yisrael MKs known for their fiscal conservatism and pro-suburb/anti-city attitudes expressed openness, but the handful of Con-Libs who were known as "pro-business" rejected the offer out of hand, with one calling Katz and Hezekiah 'extremists' and refusing to consider any proposals they had, although the King was not involved with the presidential fiscal reform plan.
As part of his 'spirit of good will' upon being elected Knesset Minority Leader, United Center Bloc and AfY head Reuven Goldschmidt agreed to hear the plan's details and expressed a willingness to not whip his caucus and let them vote their conscience. On March 11, Goldschmidt told Katz he agreed "in spirit" with the bill, but wanted a few more items added. Katz's team agreed to hear the suggestions. The United Center working group under Goldschmidt agreed to accept the current bill, but to abolish the excise tax on mortgages entirely, as well as expand the family tax reduction credit by 25% and abolish the experimental 2010 congestion pricing in Yerushalayim, Dervaylik, and Ashkelon.
Katz agreed to the end of the mortgage excise and the expansion of family benefits (which his Torah Achdus partners in particular were strongly supportive of), but he refused to cut kollel subsidies to fund it, a major AfY ask. He offered instead to cut certain foreign aid programs and keep the congestion pricing (not because the Conservatives liked it philosophically, but because it incentivized less congestion in the business districts of major cities). Goldschmidt initially recoiled but brought the counter to his senior MKs. Although unhappy at some of the logrolling, enough agreed to the terms.
On March 16, the Knesset Budget and Tax Committees debated the bill, but with the Right Bloc and a portion of the United Center Bloc MKs all onboard, the Left Bloc lawmakers and other MK critics were defeated in committee. On March 18, 2020, the new bipartisan bill was brought to the floor, where it passed overwhelmingly, 104-37-1.
Gran Aligonian crisis (2019-present)
Leaked Sion call
Latin base attack
Strengthening of ties to Latium
Collapse of relations with the Messidor Union
He is considered an ideological "happy warrior" and man of principles, shunning moderation for convenience's sake or pragmatic centrism instead to create substantial public policy changes.
He was an early political figure in what would become the "New Chareidi" clique inside the Torah Achdus party that pushed it to abandon its non-ideological benefits/transactional political grouping and focus on an alliance with similar parties such as the Conservatives.
He is a friend and leading ally to former President Noah Feldman. Along with Feldman, Katz advocated what has become known as Neoconservatism, successfully fusing the political and religious right together under the Conservatives to establish a stable governing majority.
Personal life and family
Katz is married to Ruchel Emunah (née Eisenberger) since 1988. They have 6 children (by order of age): Moshe Yehuda (age 31), Baila Esther (age 30), Aryeh Osher (age 28), Penina Leah (age 25), Avrohom Yosef (age 23), and Gershon Hillel (age 17).
They consider themselves part of the "baalebastish" Chareidim who socialize often in Chardal circles. They reside in Yerushalayim, alternating between the Presidential Palace and their home in the Har Nof neighborhood.