Peres prepares for a return to politics at the age of 91

Shimon Peres with Pope Francis and Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican

Shimon Peres with Pope Francis and Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican

As Israel's president, Shimon Peres, joined Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican for an interfaith prayer service, few in Israel were under the illusion that they were watching Peres's final conciliatory act.

Upon landing in Rome, he told reporters with a smile "I can't talk politics," but the inference was clear. Once he is freed from the golden shackles of his office, he certainly does intend to talk politics.

The fact that Mr Peres was publicly embracing the Palestinian president in Rome, only days after the Netanyahu government decided to sever all contact with new Hamas-backed Palestinian government was not lost on Israeli observers.

Similarly, when he visits Washington and New York in two weeks on his last official visit abroad as president, many will be making comparisons between the rapturous reception awaiting him at the White House and the tense relationship between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Many will compare his rapturous US reception with Bibi's cold one

While Mr Peres has refrained from criticising the Prime Minister directly, in recent speeches and interviews, he has come out stridently in favour of continuing the peace process with the Palestinians - in contrast with the line taken by the Prime Ministers' office.

"Of course Shimon isn't retiring," said one of his closest aides last week. "Anyone who hopes he will quietly go away to write his memoirs is going to be deeply disappointed."

Mr Peres's new office has already been prepared for him at the Peres Peace Centre in Jaffa and a full personal staff has been hired.

Few expect Mr Peres, who will be 91 in August, to run for office again. He is more likely to try and fill the current leadership vacuum in the "peace camp" either by working behind the scenes to unify the four centre-left parties or by serving as the godfather of a new pro-peace party.

Last updated: 1:43pm, June 12 2014