Livni, Barak won’t join coalition


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Ehud Barak, after meeting with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, said his Labor Party will go into the opposition.

"The voters have sent Labor to the opposition. That’s where we’re going," Barak, who heads the left-wing party, said after Monday’s meeting in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu’s sit-down with Barak follows his meeting Sunday with Tzipi Livni, who said her centrist Kadima Party also will stay outside the governing coaltion. Livni has come under pressure from senior party members to join a unity government, which Netanyahu called "the will of the people."

Livni and Barak have agreed to meet again with Netanyahu in the coming days.

After the meeting Sunday night, Livni said there was no reason to form negotiating teams. She said Netanyahu did not say whether he would work for a two-state solution when the question was put to him.

"We must unite forces in honor of common goals — peace, prosperity and security," Netanyahu, head of the Likud Party, said following his meeting with Livni. "If we want to find the points of unity it’s possible, and even necessary. We can and must find a common path."

Earlier Sunday, Ehud Olmert congratulated Netanyahu on being chosen to form a new government and urged him to put together a coalition quickly.

"Forming a coalition is, in effect, laying the foundation upon which the State of Israel will stand in the coming years. Therefore, and for the benefit of the Israeli people, I would like to congratulate MK Benjamin Netanyahu and wish him success," the Israeli prime minister said at the start of the Cabinet meeting.

Olmert added, "I believe that the State of Israel needs a strong, stable government that reflects the will of the people and that will win its confidence in order to deal with the problems in the diplomatic, security and socio-economic spheres. These are complex challenges that require the attention of our best forces. From my perspective, it is also important that it be done quickly."

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