This chapter ended with the "dollar account." Upon leaving his former job as ambassador in Washington, Rabin had left an open account in an American bank. At the time, that was a criminal offense, generally settled with a fine, but Rabin resigned in order to protect his wife.
It was never proved that Peres had a hand in the disclosure, though many suspected it.
AT LONG last, the way was clear. Peres assumed the leadership of the party and ran for elections. The Labor Party was bound to win, as it always had before.
But the Gods only laughed. After 44 years of continuous Labor Party dominance, in the Yishuv and the state, Peres managed to achieve the unthinkable: he lost.
Menachem Begin made peace with Egypt, with Moshe Dayan, Peres' competitor, at his side. Soon afterwards, Begin invaded Lebanon. On the eve of that war, Peres and Rabin visited him and urged him to attack. After the war went wrong, Peres appeared at a huge peace rally and condemned the war.
In the election before that, Peres had a shattering experience. In the evening, after the ballots were closed, Peres was crowned on camera as the next Prime Minister. On the following morning, Israel woke up with Prime Minister Menachem Begin again.
The elections after that ended in a draw. For the first time Peres became Prime Minister, but only under a rotation agreement. When Shamir assumed power, Peres tried to unseat him in a dubious political plot. It failed. Rabin, caustic as ever, called it "the Dirty Exercise."
Peres' unpopularity reached new depths. At election rallies, people cursed him and threw tomatoes. When, at a party event, he posed the rhetorical question: "Am I a loser?" the audience shouted in unison: "Yes!"
To change his luck, he underwent a cosmetic operation to alter his hangdog look. But his lack of grace could not be remedied by a surgeon. Neither could his oratorical skills -- this man, who has delivered many tens of thousands of speeches, has never expressed a truly original idea. His speeches consist entirely of political platitudes, helped along by a deep voice, the dream of every politician.
(This, by the way, disproves to me his pretense of having read thousands of books. You cannot really read so many books without a trace of it showing up in your writing and speeches. One of his assistants once confided to me that he prepared resumes of fashionable books for him, to save him the trouble of actually reading before quoting them.)
IN THE meantime, Peres the hawk turned into Peres the peacenik. He had a part to play in achieving the Oslo accord, but it was Rabin who garnered the glory. The same, by the way, had happened before with the daring Entebbe raid, when Peres was Minister of Defense and Rabin Prime Minister.
After Oslo, the Nobel committee was about to award the Peace Prize to Rabin and Arafat. However, immense world-wide pressure was exerted on the committee to include Peres. Since no more than three persons can share the prize, Mahmoud Abbas, who had signed the agreement with Peres, was left out.
The assassination of Rabin was a turning point for Peres. He had been standing near Rabin when the "peace song" was sung. He came down the stairs, when Yigal Amir was waiting below, the loaded pistol in his hand. The murderer let Peres pass and waited for Rabin -- another crowning insult.
But, at long last, Peres had achieved his goal. He was Prime Minister. The obvious thing to do was to call immediate elections, posing as the heir of the martyred leader. He would have won by a landslide. But Peres wanted to be elected on his own merit. He postponed the elections.
The results were disastrous. Peres gave the order to assassinate Yahya Ayyash, the "engineer" who had prepared the Hamas bombs. In retaliation, the entire country blew up in a tsunami of suicide bombings. Then Peres invaded South Lebanon, a sure means to gain popularity. But something went wrong, artillery fire caused a massacre of civilians in a UN camp, and the operation came to an inglorious end. Peres lost the elections, Netanyahu came to power.
Later, when the feared Ariel Sharon was elected, Peres offered him his services. He successfully whitewashed Sharon's bloody image in the world.