President Shimon Peres congratulated John Kerry Sunday on his nomination to replace Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state.

“Israel is pleased with your selection,” Peres told Kerry in a phone call. “I am confident that you will be able to cope with the challenges that exist in the Middle East in the hopes of finding a solution.”

President Barack Obama nominated Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to the top diplomatic post on Friday.

Kerry thanked Peres for his well-wishes, saying that he hopes to win Senate confirmation for the appointment and that he looks forward to meeting the Israeli president soon in order to work together in solving the problems in the region.

Kerry is regarded as a firm friend of Israel who is highly critical of Israeli settlements. A frequent visitor to Israel, he is also seen as an ardent supporter of Obama’s diplomacy and sanctions doctrine when dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans “undermine a two-state solution,” according to Reuters.

On Saturday, Netanyahu also welcomed Kerry’s nomination, saying that he “has considerable experience and is a known supporter of the security of the State of Israel.”

JTA contributed to this report.