It isn’t uncommon for prominent lawyers to find a place in a new administration’s list of appointees, but naming a bankruptcy lawyer as an ambassador is unusual. But that’s what Donald Trump has done with his nomination of David Friedman as his new ambassador to Israel.
There are bankruptcy attorneys and there are bankruptcy attorneys. Most of us deal with consumer bankruptcies, helping individuals and couples manage their debts. Others, like Friedman, operate in the rarefied atmosphere of high stakes business bankruptcies, where millions of dollars, thousands of creditors and thousands of jobs are on the line. He is widely considered to be among the best of the best in that arena. Still, it’s possibly the first time a bankruptcy lawyer has been nominated to a high profile post such as Israel.
Friedman’s qualifications seem to be that President-elect Trump trusts him. He has no diplomatic experience, isn’t an expert on the Middle East, and doesn’t appear to have much international experience. According to Mr. Trump, he is a “trusted adviser” on Israel, had his bar mitzvah at the Western Wall and speaks Hebrew. He also maintains a house in Jerusalem.
While negotiating with various stakeholders in a large Chapter 11 bankruptcy takes skill and finesse, it’s questionable whether those skills will be readily transferable to dealing with the United States’ interests in a volatile area such as Israel.