An inviting exercise in autobiography by Israel's defensive foreign minister. Even before the current peace process and peace prize, Shimon Peres was known for his paradoxical traits: an optimistic dove in Arab relations who nonetheless founded Israel's ``Doomsday'' atomic program. Readers who look for clues into Peres's complex psyche here will not be disappointed. An early influential headmaster of his ``believed that Zionism should and must offer far-reaching concessions to the Arabs,'' and his mentor, Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, unlike Golda Meir and others, fought hard to accept the partition plan that offered Israel a fraction of its present size. Peres was used to accommodation, as he made room for Shulamit Aloni (currently his troublesome coalition partner) in his honeymoon tent after wooing his wife with readings from Das Kapital. By age 26, Peres was already a key defense operative, but he lost many political friends by sticking with Ben-Gurion's revolt from the Labor party. Long before he would stun his nation and the world with his secret diplomatic coup in Oslo, Peres was unnerving his superiors with under-the-table deals for weaponry, the most significant being the atomic reactor project arranged with France. Peres enjoys far better relations with Israel-basher Bruno Kreisky and Israeli-killer Yassir Arafat than he does with Israel's current leader, Yitzhak Rabin. Peres swears he ``never felt any animosity'' from Rabin, yet he often responds to charges in the prime minister's ``tendentious autobiography.'' Young Shimon Persky took the name Peres because one naturalist rendered this biblical Hebrew term to mean eagle. As luck would have it, everyone else considers this bird to be a vulture. Fluid, factual, and occasionally anecdotal, this is a better- than-average campaign bio by yet another feuding Israeli hero of war and peace.