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Shimon Peres managed to extract something positive even from the burning remnants of Columbia space shuttle. He managed to find consolation - encouragement even - in the disaster, which "made a connection between Hebrew with an American accent, to the accent of America, to love for Israel" (or something like that). He took this opportunity to connect - as usual - also between pessimism and optimism and between the first part of a sentence and its second part.

It's not surprising that immediately after the Labor Party's election disintegration Peres is picking up the pieces of political debris, his face glowing like Scarlett O'Hara's - "after all, tomorrow is another day..." For like a fish in the sea, like an eel in the river, Shimon Peres swims in failure. Full of might and vitality he kicks, rolls over, turns somersaults, flops, energetically splashing droplets all around him.

Given his post-election vigor, nobody would even guess that this collapse might not least have been his fault and the fault of his colleagues and their opportunism in the unity government. Au contraire - he is full of rage that the loss was again snatched from his fingers and given to someone else. But since loss is his element for the past ages - it is no wonder that he is the most recovered and cheery of all the party members.

Light headed with the many options brought forth by the failure, once again he bows under the abundance of the blessing's curse or the curse's blessing. Once again he gathers the pieces of debris, like someone examining precious stones, calculating how he might build a magnificent coalition palace out of them, on condition that he himself is set at the center of the edifice.

Here is just an example to one of many options that burst forth from the glorious failure. How about setting up "a coalition bloc" with Shinui, Labor and One Nation (not necessarily in this order). Or perhaps a coalition with Oded Tira, the economy leaders, the Israel Bonds' leaders and those disappointed with Sharansky. And we must not rule out even "a preventive bloc" - a sort of stranglehold - if one adds the Knesset seats Peres could have got by not running for Meretz instead of Barak, along with the seats he could have won had he run in Labor instead of Mitzna.

Despite what appears to be a heroic refusal (going on for years) to sever himself from the age of 79 and touch down at the good age of 80 - the years are already showing on his face. His jaw is heavy, his eyes are sunken, his hair envelops his brow in a white halo like one of those ageless magicians in Lord of the Rings.

However, it will not be biological age that defeats Peres, but his vocal cords on the day he becomes hoarse and loses the "right to shout" - that ability to shriek in Labor's central committee and instill some awful terror into its members. ("Did someone here say we won't go to a unity government?" "Does someone here decide for everyone?")

And then his fate will be sealed. Then all Labor's wolves will pounce on him. But until then he will survive another term, another summer, another winter, another election; scheming, undermining, calculating, cheering up - this week suddenly donning a black leather jacket, like some ghostly biker - and surprising us with an economic message. ("We should ask first thing what to do so there are no more unemployed and what to do to enter a little bit into the peace thing.")

Can our lives be imagined without this phoenix, who rises from the ashes and then returns to them? Without the man who is capable, as he himself would put it, of turning every heap of ashes into a bird - and every bird into a heap of ashes?