Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni on Thursday said she will not join a government headed by Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and told her faction to prepare to lead the opposition.
Livni's remarks came after Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Knesset's third largest faction, Israel Beiteinu, recommended that President Shimon Peres choose Netanyahu to form the next government.
Lieberman told Peres that he would like to see a unity government formed between his own party, Likud and Kadima. But Livni, whose party won one more Knesset seat than Likud, said she will accept no government position other than prime minister.
Peres is supposed to base his choice for prime minister on how many parties support each candidate, regardless of the size of each candidate's party. At present, only Livni's own party has recommended her for prime minister.
Kadima had hoped that at least Ehud Barak's Labor Party would back Livni, but Barak announced early Thursday morning that he would not recommend either candidate to Peres. Labor hopes to rebuild in the opposition following a disastrous showing at the polls earlier this month.
Livni and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet with Peres on Friday, when the president is expected to push for a unity coalition.
Even if a unity coalition is formed, few expect it to last long considering the deep differences between the peace process and economic policies of Netanyahu and Livni.