Netanyahu to Obama: Nobel win sign of hope for 'new era of peace'
Peres to Obama: You made peace a real agenda; Knesset Speaker calls Nobel decision 'strange.'
Israel's leaders congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday for winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing the hope that his presidency would "usher in a new era of peace."
"Congratulations on winning the Nobel Prize for Peace," said Netanyahu in a message to Obama. "You have already inspired so many people around the world, and I know that this award also expresses the hope that your Presidency will usher in a new era of peace and reconciliation."
Obama was named as the recipient of the prize earlier Friday, for giving the world "hope for a better future" and for striving for nuclear disarmament.
Netanyahu added that the Middle East was in dire need of peace, having been long marked by terror and bloodshed.
"I look forward to working closely with you in the years ahead to advance peace and to give hope to the peoples of our region who deserve to live in peace, security and dignity," he said.
President Shimon Peres also paid tribute Friday to Obama, saying that his leadership had meant "peace became a real and original agenda."
In a letter to Obama, fellow peace prize laureate Peres wrote that, "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." (Click here to see the letter Peres sent to Obama)
Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, for their efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also expressed his support Friday for the Nobel committee's decision to award the prize to Obama, and praised the U.S. president's efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) was less enthusiastic at the Nobel committee's decision, saying that "it's very strange that Obama won."
He added his concern that "it is possible that he might force Israel into a peace deal now that he has won the award."
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and opposes a peace treaty with Israel, said the award was premature at best.
"Obama has a long way to go still and lots of work to do before he can deserve a reward," said Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri. "Obama only made promises and did not contribute any substance to world peace. And he has not done anything to ensure justice for the sake of Arab and Muslim causes."
But the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed it and expressed hope that Obama "will be able to achieve peace in the Middle East".
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters: "The Nobel Prize for peace? Obama should have won 'the Nobel Prize for escalating violence and killing civilians'."
Meanwhile, Liaqat Baluch, a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a conservative religious party in Pakistan, called the award an embarrassing "joke."