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He's angry, then hugging Shakira: is Peres all right?

    Peres with Shakira at his conference this week
    Peres with Shakira at his conference this week

    Shimon Peres is a president for all occasions. This week you could find him nuzzling Shakira on stage, conducting philosophical debates at his President's Conference and sounding dire warnings about the failure to revive the peace process.

    It's almost as if he suffers from mood swings; one moment he is basking in international adoration, the next he fears being accused of "incessant undermining", as Yitzhak Rabin memorably described him in his autobiography many years ago.

    Almost 88, Mr Peres is faced with the predicament of having to stay consensual and above daily politics, after over six decades in which he always spoke his mind. For the first four years of his seven-year presidential term, he stayed within the lines. Even acting as an ambassador around the world for his once bitter rival, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. This week, he finally let his guard slip. Or maybe he felt that he had finally earned himself a brief moment of freedom of speech.

    On Sunday he said in an interview with CNN that Israel has to get back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. "It is very urgent," he said, "I think

    neither side has much time." This is while Mr Netanyahu and his senior ministers are repeating that there is no partner on the Palestinian side and no foreseeable solution to the conflict. To make things worse, he belittled the worries surrounding a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN General Assembly in September; currently the greatest diplomatic concern of the Netanyahu administration. The President said: "If you go for a declaration, you have a declaration. You won't have a change in the situation."

    The Prime Minister's Office did not comment on the interview. Mr Netanyahu's tactic, for now, is to let the president be in the hope that this will prove to be a one-off. He has enough on his plate without a dispute with Mr Peres and he is assuming that the President prefers to preserve his father-of-the-nation status and not make a habit of criticising the government.

    Sources close to the president are not so sure. "Shimon is getting very frustrated," said one of his advisers. "He may not be able to continue keeping quiet for much longer."

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