WASHINGTON (JTA) – President Obama congratulated Reuven Rivlin on his election as president of Israel.
“Over more than six decades, the United States and Israel have developed a unique relationship based on shared democratic values, our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, and our partnership in scientific research and innovative technology,” the White House said in a statement.
“President-elect Rivlin has a long and dedicated record of public service and we look forward to continued strong ties, to the benefit of both our nations, under Mr. Rivlin’s presidency,” Obama said.
Rivlin, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, won a second round of voting in the Knesset on Tuesday 63-53 against Meir Sheetrit of the HaTnua Party.
In his statement, Obama praised outgoing President Shimon Peres and said he looked forward to seeing Peres when he receives the Congressional Gold Medal later this month.
“As President Shimon Peres nears the end of his term, he can look back on a remarkable legacy of courage, conviction, and compassion,” Obama said. “He has dedicated his extraordinary life to the cause of peace.”
Rivlin will be sworn in on July 24.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday morning with Rivlin in Jerusalem and congratulated him on his election.
“We have known each other for several good decades,” Netanyahu said after the meeting. “Joint work on behalf of all Israelis is before us. We have gone through much together and I am certain that we will now know to put the less good aspects aside and work responsibly for the future of the State of Israel.”
An array of Jewish groups joined in congratulating Rivlin on his election, many of them emphasizing the role of the presidency in bringing Israel and the Diaspora closer.
“While the presidency has been described as a symbolic post, it is in fact, a significant platform to speak to the people of Israel as a unifying force, to Jewish communities around the world, and to foreign leaders and personalities,” said a statement from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “The presidency affords many opportunities to enhance the image of Israel, to explain its challenges, and to promote its opportunities.”
Rivlin’s candidacy raised concerns among a number of U.S. Jewish groups because of statements deriding non-Orthodox Judaism, although more recently he said he would dedicate his presidency to bridging divides.