U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Tuesday that Israel is “on the side of God,” according to The New York Times.
It's an unusual remark to make by a U.S. ambassador to Israel, and one that was quickly criticized by Palestinian leaders and even a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.
“As the ambassador of the far-right Orthodox Jewish community in the United States, Friedman’s comment makes sense,” Daniel C. Kurtzer, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel under George W. Bush and ambassador to Egypt under Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHas China already won? Budget impasses mark a critical turning point in Biden's presidency Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE, told the Times.
“As the supposed ambassador of the United States government and all its people, it is an extremely inappropriate comment.”
The comments, made at an event sponsored by an American evangelical Christian group commemorating the anniversary of the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, are in line with President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE's pro-Israel policies — which have been backed by U.S. evangelicals and welcomed by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE.
Friedman said the U.S. relationship with Israel was growing “stronger and stronger and stronger” and that Israel “has one secret weapon that not too many countries have: Israel is on the side of God, and we don’t underestimate that.”
Friedman listed several other recent moves by the Trump administration that came down firmly on the Israeli side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including closing Palestinians’ diplomatic mission in Washington and combining the embassy with the Jerusalem consulate, which had formerly exclusively engaged in diplomacy with Palestinians.
Palestinian figures took exception to the claim, with Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee, calling Friedman an “extreme fundamentalist ideologue.”
“The last time we had people thinking that way in Palestine was in the Middle Ages, and look at what happened,” said Ashrawi, who on Monday said she had been denied a U.S. visa.
“I do not think that it is appropriate to refer to God (the most merciful )as a weapon," Saeb Erakat, longtime chief negotiator for the PLO, said on Twitter.
I do not think that it is appropriate to refer to God (the most merciful )as a weapon. Israel can not be the only country of the 194 countries on earth that stands on the side of God.— Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات (@ErakatSaeb) May 15, 2019
Friedman, a Trump campaign adviser who called for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem during the campaign, also laughed off predictions at the time of the embassy relocation that it would lead to mass violence.
“In the entire city of Jerusalem that day, I don’t think more than 20 people got up to protest,” he said. “I think more people were unhappy about the food they were eating in various restaurants than they were about the move of the embassy to Jerusalem.”
Israeli forces killed about 60 Palestinians demonstrating along the Gaza border fence the day of the move, which Friedman said had “nothing to do with the opening of the embassy.”