There's something to be said for that Ophir, despite everything. In a party devoid of people, he is a man; in a place of miserable wretches, he saved his own soul.

It's not at all easy to quit prematurely, after many years of personal investment and family sacrifice, and Pines-Paz invested himself wholly. Anyone who has not experienced such a decision will not be able to appreciate the agonizing difficulty.

You can always find a host of reasons not to decide right now, maybe tomorrow, or better still, the following day. These are nothing but flimsy excuses, intended to justify the "internal struggle," which is a lost cause. The Labor Party cannot be fixed - it is incorrigible. That party must be replaced, but you can't just replace one home with another.

The parties are too strong, and as they weaken, they get stronger. Their strength is in their very feebleness - the last ones on the collapsing wall clutch each other's hands in a desperate bid for survival. Even when the corpse is already lying before them, beginning to decompose - one worm will comfort the other, encouraging it to hang in there.

It is said that Israeli politicians never retire, they are only kicked down the stairs or alternatively, taken out on a stretcher. There have even been cases of politicians rising from the ashes, shaking off their clothes and returning to the ring good as new - enjoying a belated heyday long past their prime. Indeed, we've even witnessed living instances of resurrection.

And lo, a man rises and leaves of his own free will - neither thrown out nor pushed out - and is in fact telling his colleagues-rivals: You stay here and I'll go to hell in your place. He also has something important to say to his rebel-partners: If you sit on the fence too long you'll get hemorrhoids.

Don't weep for those who leave, weep for those who stay behind.

I have not spoken to Ophir lately, but it is not difficult for me to imagine what he has gone through. He is sick and tired of his party chairman and his eunuchs, who betray Labor's path every day. What do you think you're doing in that party, he asked them, then asked himself the same question: What am I doing here, in this party that looks and acts like a submissive slave, like a worn out concubine?

Pines-Paz is disgusted with his leader, who has reduced his party to its lowest level. All those left on the cart are careening down the abyss with it. Nobody will be saved. Even disgust has its limits. Pretty soon one becomes disgusted with oneself. Pines decided to get off the cart just in time, to put an end to the self-degradation.

He is not quitting because he has no choice. On the contrary - on a personal level he was well treated in Labor. The party recently elected him first in its primary. Nor would he have any problem auctioning himself off, as other parties would snatch him up. But in this great migration period, when the migrating birds don't really care where their feet will find rest, Pines is not one to land in another field. A strange bird, indeed.

Ehud Barak is sitting in his house of cards, still sure he is a winning joker, rubbing his hands gleefully. Oh, he will express sorrow in an official statement, but in private he will rejoice. Good riddance, he will say. The difference between Barak and Pines-Paz is that the latter is walking out tall, on his own two feet, while Barak will crawl out on his belly.

This is not a eulogy. Pines is 49 years old, no longer a child but no pensioner, either. He will return in due course, when the Israeli public seeks clean-minded, clean-handed envoys, who refuse to sully themselves in gutter politics. One day it will happen, it must happen, unless Israel's citizens have decided to commit suicide.

Until then, I will tell Ophir a secret - there is life after politics for all those who chose it but refused to immerse himself in its licentiousness.