This is Shimon Peres' finest hour, a time of renewal for the man who today shall become what most Israelis already see him as - Israel's number-one citizen. Long years of disappointment will be erased for a few wonderful hours when he arrives at the Knesset flanked by mounted and motorcycle police officers. He will review the honor guard, stand at attention for the national anthem, take the podium and swear to faithfully uphold his position as president of the State of Israel.
For anyone who lives here, no sight is more natural: The most senior Israeli politician ascends his rightful place, albeit seven traumatic years late. Everyone is invited to indulge in a rare moment of pleasant, stately solidarity, a welcome respite from the daily hurly-burly. Enjoy it, it will be gone all too soon.
That's how it is with these moments of grace. They are very brief and tend to go to one's head, particularly when that head is the feverish one of Shimon Peres. The law says, "The president is the head of the state," and Peres always had a literal approach to the law.
The first signs appeared Friday, when his associates announced his "hundred-day plan." It includes modest clauses such as promoting the vision of peace (including meetings with Arab leaders), creating international scientific projects for the benefit of Israel and the world, uniting the people, strengthening the Negev and Galilee, strengthening the Arab community, reinforcing the bonds with the Jewish Diaspora and improving Israel's international image. In short, an agenda ambitious enough for three governments. When will he have time to consider clemency for Naomi Blumenthal?
No detailed schedule has been issued, but it clearly will be packed, including many visits abroad. The Jewish people and the Israeli PR effort must have their due. And to remove any doubts, Peres' associates reported that "competition has already begun abroad over which country will be the first to host the new president." And so, even before he has been sworn in, the old Peres is peeking out from behind the image of the new president, ruining the party with a characteristic attack of verbal megalomania.
Peres can extend his grace period by reining in his high pretensions and especially his loyal retainers. We are on his side even without the compliments they shower him with. After all, the Knesset chose a president, not Superman. There's no need to save the country and the world in his first 100 days. We have seven years together. Give us a minute to get used to him again.
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