Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday welcomed the nomination of U.S. Senator John Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in January.
"I welcome the nomination of John Kerry to the post of U.S. secretary of state. Kerry has considerable experience and is a known supporter of the security of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said in a statement.
"John Kerry and I have been friends for many years. I very much appreciated the fact that six months ago, after my father passed away, he came to visit me during the week of mourning. I look forward to working together with him."
U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Kerry on Friday, calling the veteran U.S. senator the "perfect choice" as America's top diplomat.
The move is the first in an overhaul of Obama's national security team heading into his second term.
As the nation's top diplomat, Kerry, 69, will not only be tasked with executing the president's foreign policy objectives, but will also have a hand in shaping them. The longtime lawmaker has been in lockstep with Obama on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation, but ahead of the White House in advocating aggressive policies in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere that the president later embraced.
"He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training," Obama said, standing alongside Kerry in a Roosevelt Room ceremony. "Few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry."
He is expected to win confirmation easily in the Senate, where he has served since 1985, the last six years as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry would take the helm at the State Department from Secretary Hillary Clinton, who has long planned to leave the administration early next year. Clinton is recovering from a concussion sustained in a fall and did not attend the White House event.
In a statement, Clinton said, "John Kerry has been tested — in war, in government, and in diplomacy. Time and again, he has proven his mettle."
Kerry has a history of pro-Israel votes in the Senate. He has maintained close relations with several officials from the Israeli leadership and has visited Israel several times. Kerry also has Jewish roots. During his candidacy for president in 2004, the Massachusetts senator revealed that his grandfather was an Austro-Hungarian Jew who changed his name before emigrating to the U.S. Additionally, Kerry's brother, Cameron Kerry, converted to Judaism after marrying an Orthodox Jew.
However, despite his declarations over his unshakable commitment to Israel's security, Kerry opposes Israel's settlement policy and has criticized Israeli actions in Judea and Samaria, as well as the blockade on Gaza.
Other Israeli officials, meanwhile, also welcomed Kerry's nomination. Outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon sent a message to the senator, saying, "I wish you success in your role, especially in light of the complex challenges we face."
Kerry also received support from Jewish organizations in the U.S.
The National Jewish Democratic Council said, “We are ecstatic to see that President Obama has selected Senator Kerry to be the next Secretary of State. Senator Kerry’s foreign policy credentials are impeccable and he is the right person to be representing the United States on the global stage at this time.
“Senator Kerry ... has been a leader when it comes to Israel and has made it abundantly clear that he — like the Obama Administration — stands squarely behind the Jewish state."
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying that "throughout his Senate career, Mr. Kerry has consistently been an effective advocate for Israel's security in a dangerous region and demonstrated his commitment to fighting against anti-Semitism and bigotry all over the world."
While Obama put one important piece of his revamped cabinet in place, he held off on naming a new defense secretary.
The delay came in the face of a growing backlash from critics of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who is considered a leading candidate to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.
Officials in Netanyahu's office have privately voiced concern over the possibility that Hagel might take over at the Pentagon.
Some American Jewish leaders contend that Hagel, who left the Senate in 2008, at times opposed Israel's interests, voting several times against U.S. sanctions on Iran, and made disparaging remarks about the influence of what he called a "Jewish lobby" in Washington.
Asked last week about a statement by Hagel in 2006 that the "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people here," Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he would "have to answer for that comment" if he is nominated.
"And he'll have to answer about why he thought it was a good idea to directly negotiate with Hamas and why he objected to the European Union declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization," said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A Washington Post editorial published last week said, "Mr. Hagel is an honorable man who served the country with distinction as a soldier in Vietnam and who was respected by his fellow senators. But Mr. Obama could make a better choice for defense secretary."