JERUSALEM - Israel's Cabinet put off last night an all-out military effort to crush the Palestinian uprising for "a few more days" to give frantic international diplomatic efforts a chance to halt the fighting.
But, in a move that could doom the Middle East peace process, Prime Minister Ehud Barak signaled that he planned to expand his government to include the right-wing Likud Party, putting Israel on a war footing.
Saying a "tough situation requires tough measures," a statement from Barak's office said the government was bowing to appeals from world leaders "to all allow a few more days to exhaust the possibility for stopping the violence while there is a feeling that there is really a last chance."
The government also sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip indefinitely, extending a closure imposed for the Yom Kippur holiday and striking a blow at the fragile Palestinian economy.
As Barak's 48-hour deadline for a halt to the violence expired, fighting was reported in Ramallah, Nablus and elsewhere, injuring at least 14 people.
Acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami said, "There are no signs in the field that there is a halt in the violence on the Palestinian side."
On Saturday night, Barak gave Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat two days to end the uprising triggered by rightist leader Ariel Sharon's visit Sept. 29 to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif, the third-holiest shrine in Islam.
Holding Arafat responsible for the violence, Barak said that if it didn't stop, he would consider the peace process finished and tell the army to use "all means" against the Palestinians.
Palestinian officials publicly rejected the ultimatum, and Arafat "simply tended to act as if it didn't exist," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said last night.
Appearing to crumble under the threat would show that Barak had succeeded in "breaking our will and pride," Erekat said. "From all indications I can see, I don't think we have seen the worst yet."
The forceful Israeli response to the rioting has resulted in the deaths of nearly 80 Palestinians and brought strong international criticism.
President Clinton, trying to bring Barak and Arafat together to a summit in Cairo Egypt, "has been working very hard to basically say that violence is not the solution, they have to get back to the peace process, and that it's important to realize that there is no military solution to this," said Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.
A U.S. official said, "no one has said no to a possible meeting" and that a trip by Clinton this week still is possible. But he said there is doubt as to whether such a visit "has some reasonable prospect of being productive."
Later, after his Cabinet meeting, Barak indicated he might be willing to attend such a meeting.
Annan arrives in region
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in the region yesterday with the twin aims of calming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and working out a prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, which captured three Israeli soldiers along the Lebanese border Saturday.
Speaking on ABC's "Nightline" yesterday, Barak indicated that he would give diplomats more time.
"Another day or two will not change it if there is an international effort to put an end to the conflict, or this violence, and come back to the negotiating table," he said.
"But if not, we are determined, with the same kind of tenacity that we pushed for peace, to make sure that Israel will live up to its commitments to its citizens and its soldiers, to defend them with all means we have."
More drawn in violence
Meanwhile, there were more indications of Jewish civilians being drawn into the violence, as assailants and victims.
Last night, a group of Jews attacked a restaurant that employs Arab workers in the poor Hatikva quarter of Tel Aviv, Israel Radio reported.
Group members also apparently set fire to two apartments housing Arabs, and overturned cars. A mosque was firebombed in the city.
In Nof Yam north of Tel Aviv, near the exclusive enclave where the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats live, police pushed back a gang of Jewish youths from an old beachfront mosque.
"Police state," the young men shouted, "Death to the Arabs." A firebomb was thrown at the mosque, but no damage was reported.
In the Arab-Israeli city of Nazareth, a Jewish mob descended from the outskirts of the city Sunday night and began throwing stones and attacking Arabs in what an Israeli peace group dubbed a "pogrom." Police moved in to quell the violence as Arabs retaliated. Two Arab-Israelis were killed.
Police told to stop all fighting
"This is something which, again, should be stopped right away," government spokesman Nachman Shai said last night. "The prime minister just instructed the Israeli police to take measures, as necessary, in order to stop all violence, Jewish or Arab. That should be done right away. We will not treat differently violence in the Arab sector or in the Jewish sector."