Palestinians were slack-jawed.
“Where does that place the rest of the world?” said Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian negotiator and member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee. “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe this extreme fundamentalist ideologue is an ambassador.”
Ms. Ashrawi — who said that on Monday she had been denied a visa to the United States for the first time — noted that the event at which Mr. Friedman had made the remark, with its echoes of religious warfare, was held in a hotel a stone’s throw from the walls of the Old City, where Crusaders and Muslims had slaughtered one another for centuries.
“The last time we had people thinking that way in Palestine was in the Middle Ages, and look at what happened,” Ms. Ashrawi said.
Saeb Erekat, the P.L.O.’s longtime chief negotiator, questioned the propriety of referring to God as a weapon at all. “What ambassador Friedman is telling Palestinians, Christians and Muslims,” he wrote on Twitter, was “that God is against them (or that they’re enemies of God). This was never an American position.”
No one has accused Mr. Friedman, who was Mr. Trump’s longtime bankruptcy lawyer, of impartiality in his post, or even of the studied neutrality of career diplomats. Before being appointed he was a prominent supporter of and major donor to the Israeli settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal under international law.
He can also seem to invite charges that he is overly close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel: Opening his remarks Tuesday night, he acknowledged Mr. Netanyahu’s presence and joked that it had been mere days since they had seen each other, adding, “It’s been difficult to be apart from you for so long.”
In his speech, Mr. Friedman made light of predictions of violence over the move of the embassy to Jerusalem a year ago. “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.”