Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday lauded the appointment of John Kerry as the new US secretary of state, calling the senator a supporter of Israel’s security.
“I welcome the nomination of John Kerry to the post of US secretary of state,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Kerry has considerable experience and is a known supporter of the security of the State of Israel.”
Kerry was given the nod to replace Hillary Clinton as Washington’s top diplomat on Friday, ending several months of speculation.
Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, is known as both a staunch backer of US President Barack Obama and as somebody who has worked closely with Israel on a number of issues.
Netanyahu called Kerry a “friend for many years,” and said he had been there for him when the prime minister’s father died earlier this year.
“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,” the statement read. “I look forward to working together with him.”
Kerry, a frequent visitor to Israel, is seen as an ardent supporter of Obama’s diplomacy and sanctions doctrine when dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. He has also criticized Israeli settlement expansion.
The nomination comes at a time when the US has stepped up its rhetoric against Israeli settlement building. Last week, the State Department slammed what it called a “pattern of provocative action” after Israel pushed ahead with plans to expand construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
During a senate hearing, Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reiterated the State Department’s stance, saying Netanyahu’s plans “undermine a two-state solution,” according to Reuters.
At a talk at the Brooking’s Institution’s Saban Center in 2009, Kerry called for the US to back up its words with actions.
“Nothing will do more to make clear our seriousness about turning the page than demonstrating — with actions rather than words — that we are serious about Israel freezing settlement activity in the West Bank,” he said then.
Yet in 2011, he also criticized the administration for “wasting” its time by insisting on a settlement freeze from Netanyahu.
Obama is also expected to nominate former senator Chuck Hagel for the defense secretary post. Hagel, a vocal critics of Israel’s policies, has gotten mixed reviews from Israel supporters.
JTA contributed to this report.