Defense Minister Ehud Barak directed scathing criticism at Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s stance against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

If the PA regime were to lose influence, then the West Bank would come under Hamas control, Barak told associates.

“Liberman’s comments on the PA and its head do not represent the State of Israel, and harm the Israeli interest.

If Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and [PA Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad won’t rule Judea and Samaria, as Liberman dreams they won’t, Hamas will,” Barak said.

Liberman made a series of comments last week against Abbas to counterparts on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly suggesting that Israel stop supporting the Fatah-dominated PA leadership.

Liberman reiterated what he had been saying for weeks in Israel, telling the foreign ministers of a dozen countries that as long as Abbas was chairman of the PA there was no chance of forging an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

While describing Abbas as the principle obstacle to peace, Liberman also claimed the PA president had neither Íthe interest nor the ability to properly manage the Palestinians, but instead “travel[s] the world inciting against Israel and blaming it for all his problems.”

The foreign minister’s most recent attack on Abbas followed the PA president’s speech to the General Assembly, in which Abbas accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and pursuing a “policy of war, occupation and settlement colonization.”

In his denouncement of Liberman, Barak signaled his intent to turn to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with an urgent request to hold a meeting on Israeli policy toward the PA. Barak believes a change in policy is needed, in light of security and economic concerns, irrespective of Abbas’s harsh anti-Israel rhetoric.

“Israel still has basic interests in safeguarding security in Judea and Samaria, which is in a very good place compared to any other time,” Barak said.

He attributed the improvement to the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), as well as to the work carried out by PA security forces, and the economic policies of Fayyad and Abbas.

Herb Keinon and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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