Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu failed on Monday to persuade top rivals to join his Cabinet, increasing the chances of a right-wing Israeli coalition that is likely to put the brakes on the sputtering Middle East peace process.
Both outgoing Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Kadima party, and center-left Labor Party leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have waved aside entreaties to enter a Netanyahu government.
The intense political horsetrading comes as senior envoys from the administration of US President Barack Obama prepare to visit the region to try to advance peace talks which have been on ice since the Gaza war.
The 59-year-old prime minister vowed, however, to keep trying to cobble together a broad coalition.
“I refuse to give up,” the Ynet news Web site quoted him as telling members of his Likud party, adding that he would “take all the steps necessary” to achieve the goal.
Barak emerged from a meeting with Netanyahu on Monday still intent on taking Labor to the opposition benches after the party, which dominated Israeli politics for the first three decades of its existence, made its worst-ever showing in the Feb. 10 election with just 13 seats.
“The people have spoken and decided to send Labor into the opposition and we respect their choice,” Barak said. “We will be a responsible, serious and constructive opposition.”