Reactions to US President Barack Obama's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday were mostly positive as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised him for the achievement while Hamas leader Ismail Hanieyh said that the occasion meant little for the Palestinians.
Netanyahu passed his congratulations on to the American president to US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell during a meeting between the two in Jerusalem, the Prime Minister's Office told the Jerusalem Post. Netanyahu later blessed Obama personally through a letter sent to the White House.
"You have given inspiration to people all over the world until now and winning this prize is an expression of the hope that your presidency will promote a new era of peace and placation," Netanyahu wrote.
"There is no place in need of peace more than the Middle East, a region that has been for a long time associated with terror and bloodshed. I am hopeful that we will work together in the near future to advance peace and provide hope to the nations of the region that deserve to live in peace, security and pride."
Former Israeli UN ambassador Dan Gillerman, however, said that while he hoped Obama would live up to the expectations the Nobel committee had vested in him, he was surprised at the decision.
"I'm a little surprised at the choice, not because I don't appreciate the efforts of the president of the United States for peace, but because in my opinion the test is in the results and not in the attempt," Gillerman told Israel Radio.
"I think that at this time he has done very little, at least from the point of view of results," he said. "This choice is somewhat premature."
President Shimon Peres also sent a letter of congratulations to Obama, telling the American leader that under his leadership, peace became a "real and original agenda."
"Very few leaders if at all were able to change the mood of the entire world in such a short while with such profound impact. You provided all of humanity with fresh hope, with intellectual determination, and a feeling that there is a Lord in heaven and believers on earth," Peres, himself a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wrote to Obama.
"Under your leadership, peace became a real and original agenda. And from Jerusalem, I am sure all the bells of engagement and understanding will ring again. You gave us a license to dream and act in a noble direction," the president concluded.
Earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was the first Israeli official to congratulate Obama, expressing hope that the award would help the US president in his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
"Reaching peace with our neighbors is a top priority for Israel," Barak said.
"I believe the Nobel Prize will empower President Barack Obama in his efforts to bring regional peace to the Middle East, as well as to an agreement between ourselves and the Palestinians, resulting in peace and prosperity for all the nations in the region."
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip on Friday said his group heard Obama's speeches seeking better relations with the Islamic world but have not been moved.
"We are in need of actions, not sayings," Haniyeh said.
"If there is no fundamental and true change in American policies toward the acknowledgment of the rights of the Palestinian people, I think this prize won't move us forward or backward."