Obama congratulates next Israeli president Reuven Rivlin

Israeli presidential candidate and former minister and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a veteran member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party, speaks to the press on June 9, 2014 in Jerusalem. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Israeli presidential candidate and former minister and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a veteran member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party, speaks to the press on June 9, 2014 in Jerusalem. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday congratulated Israeli's newly elected next president, the hawkish Reuven Rivlin, and poured praise on his friend, outgoing President Shimon Peres.

"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," Mr Obama said in a statement.

Some of Mr Rivlin's views – including his opposition to a Palestinian state and strong support for Israeli settlement in the West Bank – conflict with US policy.

The State Department sought to play down concerns, stressing that now stalled talks coordinated by the United States between the Palestinians and Israel were not within the purview of the Israeli president.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear that the government of Israel supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said State Department spokesman Jen Psaki.

In his statement, Mr Obama also praised Mr Peres, 90, with whom he has a close friendship.

"He can look back on a remarkable legacy of courage, conviction, and compassion," Mr Obama said.

"He has dedicated his extraordinary life to the cause of peace, and I look forward to welcoming him in Washington later this month where he will receive the Congressional Gold Medal."

Former parliamentary speaker Mr Rivlin, a far right member of the Likud Party, won a run-off vote against his centrist challenger Meir Sheetrit by 63 votes to 53 in a secret ballot of the Knesset's 120 MPs.

He will take over from Mr Peres in July.