Oldish but funny. Here’s the 84-year-old then-deputy prime minister, now president of Israel fielding questions from a reporter in May about Ahmadinejad’s exterminationist rhetoric. A blogger who speaks Hebrew translates:

The interviewer for the Arab television station begins by asking Peres, who is already nodding off, “Do you think that Iran’s nuclear program represents an existential threat to Israel?” Peres lifts his head and gives a coherent answer, even though he is more than half asleep: “It’s an existential threat to Iran. Why to Israel? What will they do to Israel? I don’t think they will do anything to Israel. Let them spend all their billions on building shelters and developing nuclear weapons. They will discover in 10 years that they made a mistake.”

The interviewer quickly translates his response into Arabic. Turning back to Peres, who has meanwhile fallen asleep again, the interviewer clears his throat nervously and says, hesitantly, “The president of Iran says frequently that he wants to wipe Israel off the map…”

At that point a female voice, off camera, is heard saying, “Shimon, I’m going to bring you a cup of coffee.” Peres looks up at his assistant with relief and says, “Yes, yes.”

After you’ve had a laugh, read this ominous story out today in Newsweek about Israel’s increasing anxiety about the Iranian nuclear program and the likelihood of Iranian retaliation against America if the IAF strikes, which would open up a third front on the war on terror when the military is struggling to manage two. The nutroots will seize on the detail that one of Cheney’s former advisors claims he’s been pushing Israel to attack but the story emphasizes that the consensus against an attack within the administration is firmer than thought. The real fear is Israel forcing the U.S.’s hand with an attack of their own. According to one Israeli source, “Two thousand seven is the year you determine whether diplomatic efforts will stop Iran. If by the end of the year that’s not working, 2008 becomes the year you take action.” Iran’s taking it seriously, too:

In Iran, preparations for war are underway. “Crisis committees” have been established in each government ministry to draw up contingency plans, according to an Iranian official who asked for anonymity in order to speak freely. The regime has ordered radio and TV stations to prepare enough prerecorded programming to last for months, in case the studios are sabotaged or employees are unable to get to work. The ministries of electricity and water are working on plans to maintain service under war conditions. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also sent envoys to reach out to European negotiators recently, in the hopes of heading off further sanctions or military action.

Read the whole thing and note the passage in which Ephraim Sneh gives a Newsweek reporter a visual tour of what one atomic bomb used against Israel could do.

Tags: Israel