Israeli President Shimon Peres, in a radio interview on Monday, called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “joke” and said he appeared to worship “the bomb more than he’s worshipping the God in heaven”.
Nobel peace laureate Peres told US National Public Radio in Jerusalem that a united front by the international community could stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be “wiped off the map” and recently forecast the destruction of the Jewish state.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said recently that a country with such an attitude must never be allowed to develop nuclear arms.
Peres said Ahmadinejad was “an unbelievable joke”, adding the Iranian president “claims he’s religious”.
“My impression is that in his eyes the nuclear bomb is higher than Allah, than the God in heaven. He’s worshipping the bomb more than he’s worshipping the God in heaven,” Peres said.
Tehran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful, has defied a UN Security Council demand to halt its uranium enrichment program, resulting in two sets of sanctions. A third sanctions resolution is under consideration.
Peres said Iran has high unemployment and inflation. “All the attention is about the bomb, but people cannot live on a bomb,” he said.
Peres also had words for Iran's proxt in Iran Monday,during a visit to northern Israeli communities impacted by last summer's war.
"What did Hizbullah achieve in the last war? Houses destroyed, people killed and injured. Hizbullah must understand that big victories in the Middle East can be achieved only by sitting around the negotiation table, and not by use of force. Peace will come from the north and security for all citizens will also come from the north," he said.
The presidency is a largely ceremonial post in Israel. While politically influential, Israeli presidents have no authority to set government policy.
Hagai Einav contributed to this report