In a slip of the tongue that has marked him for the last decade, Shimon Peres in 1997 asked the Labor Party: "Am I a loser?" To his chagrin they responded, "Yes." Ten years later his peers sang a different tune. In an act of unusual political chivalry, his rivals in the presidency race, Labor MK Colette Avital and Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, ceded in Peres' favor once they saw he was in the lead.
It was a move that immediately secured Peres his first electoral victory since 1984, when he won the prime ministerial race, but failed to form a coalition.
At age 83, with a Nobel Peace Prize in his pocket, 10 books under his belt, and the ability to summon celebrities likes former US President Bill Clinton and actress Kathleen Turner to a birthday party, Peres could hardly be considered a loser.
In the international community, he is one of Israel's most famous politicians.
But here, his record of losing eight elections over his half-century in politics, has tarnished that luster.
Peres is not the only politician with a spectacular history of losses. Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, for example, lost eight prime ministerial bids.
What was striking about Peres, though, was that in spite of the electoral blows, circumstances often conspired to push him into top positions. He has been Labor Party head, finance minister, defense minister, foreign minister, vice premier and prime minister, as well as holding the record for the longest stint as an MK, 48 years.
None of this has assuaged political pundits, who have written his political obituary more times than anyone can count. On Wednesday, Peres proved that in Israeli politics loss is fleeting and victory, like wine, tastes sweeter with age. He faced thunderous applause and welcome accolades from his peers in the Knesset.
"Finally, justice was done," said his long-time friend and colleague Asher Ben-Natan, Israel's first ambassador to Germany. "It's the jewel in the crown. It is really his last contribution to Israel," said Ben-Natan.
The presidency is a fitting cap to a long career in public service by a man who struck him as greatly ambitious when the two met 60 years ago, said Ben-Natan.
Peres is the kind of man who can't stop, and the type of energy and perseverance that always helped him climb back on top is likely to serve him well in the presidency, said Ben-Natan.
Peres biographer Michael Bar-Zohar said that one can expect Peres to continue an ambitious set of activities, including the pursuit of peace, during his tenure as president.