Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said on Saturday that recent acts of violence by settlers near Hebron could have been perpetrated by Shin Bet undercover agents.

"I only want to say that the actions there appeared strange to me. I hope this isn't a case of a 'Champagne' or of another Shin Bet agent," said the right-wing lawmaker, speaking in an interview with Channel 2.

'Champagne' was the code-name for Avishai Raviv, an agent-informer the Shin Bet security service used to participate in, and even initiate, right-wing violence against Arabs in the territories, particularly in the Hebron-Kiryat Arba area of the West Bank, while filing reports to his controllers about radical Jewish activity.

Last month, prominent settler leader Daniela Weiss claimed a pipe bomb attack against outspoken left-wing advocate Ze'ev Sternhell was masterminded by the Shin Bet to turn public opinion against the settlers.

In the TV interview, Lieberman also declared that Israeli Arabs are a greater problem for Israel than the Palestinians.

"We warned before the October [2000] riots, and also before the Acre riots, and I say today: At least to me it is clear that our central problem is not Palestinian at all," he said.

"The subject of Arab Israelis is a complex, charged matter and we also need to sort it out."

Lieberman was referring to the violent clashes between Arabs and Jews in the northern city of Acre that erupted on the holiday of Yom Kippur last month.

He also said that the prompt apology that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres issued after he lambasted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is "tantamount to the behavior of a battered wife."

Continuing his verbal assault on Egypt, Lieberman said that Cairo is preparing for war against Israel.

"It is obvious that Egypt is waiting for the right time to deploy troops in [demilitarized] Sinai."

Following Liebereman's comments, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Saturday that the peaceful relations with Egypt are a strategic asset.

"Egypt is a responsible and important player in the Middle East, and Lieberman's comments are irresponsible. Even electioneering should not compromise our delicate and important relationship with the Egyptians," Barak said.