PM lauds Kerry nomination for US secretary of state

US president says he expects quick Senate confirmation; National Jewish Democratic Council "ecstatic" over news.

Sen. John Kerry at the Democratic Convention 370 (R) (photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Sen. John Kerry at the Democratic Convention 370 (R)
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warmly welcomed the long anticipated appointment of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as the next US secretary of state, referring to the veteran politician as his friend.
“Kerry has considerable experience and is a known supporter of the security of the State of Israel. John Kerry and I have been friends for many years,” Netanyahu said on Saturday. “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.”
US President Barack Obama officially appointed Kerry, a decorated war veteran and the son of a Foreign Service officer, on Friday. He is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a long-time ally of Obama. He ran unsuccessfully for president against George W. Bush in 2004.
“John has earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training,” Obama said in announcing his pick at the White House. “I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry.”
Current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been recovering from a stomach virus and concussion, was not present at the announcement. But she sent out a statement welcoming his announcement, which referenced their shared experience as unsuccessful presidential candidates.
“As I have learned, being able to talk candidly as someone who has won elections and also lost them is an enormous asset when engaging with emerging or fragile democracies,” she said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni sent letters to Kerry on Saturday to congratulate him on his appointment as US secretary of state.
“I know how important Israel’s security and how important the relations between the US and Israel are to you,” The Tzipi Livni Party leader wrote, adding she had many conversations with Kerry about Israel’s future and the advancing of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
“There is no doubt the role you have taken upon yourself is most significant in determining the direction in which the entire region will head during a very challenging time. Your success is our success and our future,” she added.
Kerry has often traveled to the Middle East during his role as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, including meetings with Syrian President Bashar Assad before the civil war there began and with Afghan and Pakistani leaders to smooth US relations with those countries.
Several Senate colleagues welcomed the appointment, which comes after Obama confidante and US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice withdrew her name from contention after being criticized for her handling of the controversy over a shooting at the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
“John has the experience, values and capabilities to be a truly great secretary of state,” said Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut).
“I am sure his nomination will hearten friends and allies of America throughout the world, because they know, respect and trust John Kerry.”
Lieberman is retiring at the end of this term and therefore won’t get to vote on Kerry’s confirmation, but the Massachusetts Democrat is expected to easily get the backing of the Senate.
Kerry’s selection was also welcomed by several Jewish groups.
Americans for Peace Now spokesman Ori Nir said of Kerry: “He has consistently demonstrated a deep understanding of the complex foreign policy challenges facing the United States in the Middle East and around the world, and a profound appreciation of and respect for the vital role that US diplomacy can and must play in addressing these challenges.”
Another Jewish group, The National Jewish Democratic Council, sent out a strong statement of support.
“We are ecstatic to see that President Obama has selected Senator Kerry to be the next secretary of state,” the group said.
“His record on the foreign policy issues of special interest to the Jewish community is exceptionally strong,” the statement continued. “He 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.”
Morrie Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, agreed that Kerry had a good record on Israel-related issues but was more reserved in his praise.
“I would not list him among the more enthusiastic supporters, but certainly it’s a fine record,” he said, noting that on Israeli-related letters, resolutions and other initiatives he was almost never a lead sponsor and that Iran sanctions legislation was most strongly championed in the Senate banking committee rather than Kerry’s.
He added that regardless of the person chosen to fill Clinton’s shoes, “The White House will continue to call most of the shots.”
Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.