February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Shortly after Avigdor Lieberman announced his endorsement of Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister, Kadima Chair Tzipi Livni said Thursday she would not sit in a government that fails to advance the peace process.

"Kadima represents a number of things Israel needs, from advancing the peace process and fighting terror to domestic issues that have to be addressed," Livni said during a visit to southern Israel.

"Kadima won't provide cover for a government of paralysis," she said, hinting that she would not join a rightist coalition headed by Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Kadima Party officials said the decision by the Yisrael Beiteinu chair to back Netanyahu as Israel's next prime minister, has effectively sent Kadima into the opposition.

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said Lieberman's announcement did not come as a surprise.

"I knew from the start that that would be [Lieberman's] decision, and I don't understand why everyone is surprised," Sheetrit said.

He added: "Lieberman was never my cup of tea."

Likud officials welcomed Lieberman's announcement Thursday, and said the party would seek to forge a broad coalition regardless of the precondition set by Yisrael Beiteinu.

A Likud statement following the announcement said that Netanyahu would now attempt to convince Labor to join a coalition headed by him, and that a Netanyahu-Livni meeting would likely take place soon.

Kadima MK Yisrael Katz said party chairwoman Tzipi Livni would have to decide whether or not to join a government under Netanyahu.

"It is now up to [Livni] to make up her mind. Netanyahu has already made the magnanimous decision to ask her to join him in a broad coalition," Katz said.


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