By Larry Gordon

One interpretation of the biblical name Bilaam, whose odyssey is detailed in last week’s Torah portion, is that this ancient, failed doomsayer was an early version of what we consider Palestinians today.

Another way to read his name is by slightly jumbling the letters to say “B’li Am,” a person with no nation. In other words, a people with a flimsy identity, a progenitor to people without a country.

Look back at Biden’s visit to Israel and specifically to East Jerusalem last Friday. First, it’s important to note that there is no country of Palestine, even though that’s exactly the country Mr. Biden was desperately trying to convince us he was visiting. To make that point, even though Democrats are alleged to agree that Jerusalem needs to be a unified city and under Israeli sovereignty (it used to be part of the Democratic Party platform), the Biden handlers saw fit to remove the Israeli flag from the presidential motorcade and replace it with a Palestinian flag. That’s just one piece in the Biden administration’s dishonest diplomatic jigsaw puzzle.

The similarities between Mr. Biden and Mr. Bilaam are greater than just the fact that Mr. Biden had this meeting as most of the Jewish world was reading the Torah portion pertaining to Bilaam during the presidential visit.

Bilaam was only an appointed agent of the king, Balak, the man whose name headlines the parashah. Like Biden who is taking direction from people he refers to as “they,” Bilaam was hired by Balak to use his unusual prophetic powers to derail the Jewish nation’s aim to enter and conquer the ancient land of Israel.

Now that the anticipated momentous Biden visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia is over, we can do what the government refers to as an AAR, an after-action report. In one word, here is what happened and what was accomplished on the visit: nothing.

The additionally fascinating aspect of the Biden visit to Israel was that, like Bilaam, Biden could not utter words he had intended to deliver.

From the Palestinian perspective, he was there to jumpstart Arab claims that part of, if not all of, Israel is legitimately theirs. On the short side of that, Biden was there to attempt to push the idea of opening a U.S. embassy to Palestine in the heart of Jerusalem on Agron Street. But Israel is against that, and while PA President Abbas had high hopes for the move, reportedly the subject was not even raised in any of the meetings with Israeli officials.

Even when Biden was doing his best to reinvigorate the long-abandoned attempt to move things in the direction of the two-state solution, those words were not properly emitted from the president’s vocal cords, reminiscent of Bilaam’s blunder.

There were similarities between the ancient words of Bilaam and last week’s vain efforts to revitalize the two-state fantasy with Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

The biblical Bilaam was riddled with contradictions. Other than Moshe, he is the only other prophet whose visions are recorded in the Chumash. That’s an impressive set of credentials. But in another aspect of his life, things were not all that impressive. Along with Yisro and Iyov, Bilaam was an adviser to Egypt’s Pharaoh, and together they devised methods on how to deal with the fledgling nation of Israel.

As far as I can tell, the closest comparison between Bilaam in last week’s parashah and Biden on last week’s trip to the Middle East was when Biden was in East Jerusalem sans the Israeli flags, and Bilaam, correspondingly, was looking into the distant Jewish future.

In events with Israeli leaders and with Palestinian leaders the next day, Biden advocated for two states—Israel and Palestine—but he also said that now is not the time for that. In his words, “The ground is not ripe” to restart talks between the two parties.

In other words, Biden sees two states, but just not now.

And that’s odd, because Bilaam says that he sees the future of the Jewish people and our ultimate destiny, which our commentators say is the most overt reference to the arrival of Mashiach and the redemption of the Jewish people. On that matter Bilaam says, “I see him but not now; I perceive him, but he is not near.”

Obviously, the subjects of Bilaam and Biden’s verbiage were vastly different. But on the other hand, they were both busy with the Jewish people and our presence in the land of Israel.

Bilaam was hired by Balak to curse the Jewish people and keep them from entering the land of Israel after their long trek in the desert. But to Balak’s great displeasure and frustration, Bilaam just could not get the job done because, as Bilaam told him, he cannot contradict the will of G-d.

Joe Biden and his handlers, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, very much want to score a foreign-policy victory in any way possible. And desperate situations mean turning to Israel for concessions. While they did manage to get Biden to say the words, “Two-state solution,” he had to add, perhaps reluctantly, “not now.”

Another Bilaam preoccupation is the reference to Israel as a lion. For example, the Torah records him saying, “Look, a people that rises like an awesome lion and raises itself like a lion…” And there are other curious references to Israel as a lion. 

The fascinating imagery has to consider that lions can sleep 20–22 hours out of 24. So how do we reconcile Am Yisrael with a jungle beast that sleeps most of the day?

Commentaries on this subject say that while a lion may be asleep most of the time, when it pounces it does so with alacrity—just like the Jewish people, whether dealing with Iran, the Palestinians, or Joe Biden’s unworkable, backward ideas.

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