John Kerry
John KerryReuters

It's official: U.S. President Barack Obama will nominate Senator John Kerry as secretary of state on Friday, as he begins to remake his national security team ahead of his second term, a U.S. official told AFP.

Kerry would succeed Hillary Clinton, who is stepping down after four years as the top U.S. diplomat.

His appointment became almost a certainty following the withdrawal of UN ambassador Susan Rice, the early favorite for the post who was caught in the aftermath of the attack of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in September.

The White House had earlier hoped to make a clean sweep by announcing all nominations to the national security team, including new chiefs of the CIA and Defense Department, at once. But the timetable slipped for various reasons, reported AFP.

Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is expected to win easy confirmation from his colleagues in the chamber. He has acted as a sort of unofficial envoy for Obama in recent years.

He traveled to the Middle East and South Asia and met Syria's President Bashar al-Assad several times, as Washington mulled a diplomatic opening, and a renewal of Arab-Israeli peace talks before the outbreak of the Syrian revolt.

In May 2011 Kerry went to Pakistan to try to ease tensions in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, and in February 2009 made a rare visit to Hamas-ruled Gaza, without meeting anyone from the terror group.

As soon as he is confirmed in his new job, he will face a huge array of foreign policy challenges, including a critical moment in the Iranian nuclear challenge and what could be the last throes of the Assad regime in Syria.

Kerry played an important role in Obama's political career, notably by picking him to give the keynote speech in the 2004 Democratic convention, at which the then unknown Illinois lawmaker burst onto the political scene.

Kerry lost the 2004 presidential race to president George W. Bush, after a campaign that included savage attacks on his career as a swift boat commander in Vietnam.

At one point in that campaign, he was lambasted by Republicans who accused him of "flip flops" on the Iraq war, and the Bush campaign ran a notorious ad showing Kerry on a windsurfer, with the kicker "John Kerry, whichever way the wind blows."

Many Washington watchers have long seen Kerry as a potential secretary of state, and the job will be the capstone of a long political career.

During the last Democratic National Convention in September, Kerry said that he believes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s word over that of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“Barack Obama promised always to stand with Israel to tighten sanctions on Iran—and take nothing off the table,” said Kerry.

“Again and again, the other side has lied about where this president stands and what this president has done. But Prime Minister Netanyahu set the record straight—he said, our two countries have ‘exactly the same policy…’—‘our security cooperation is unprecedented...’

“When it comes to Israel, I'll take the word of Israel's prime minister over Mitt Romney any day,” declared Kerry.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)