Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given up on his monthlong effort to form a government coalition, a decision that will position his chief rival to take up the challenge and push the country further into political uncertainty.
Netanyahu fell short of securing a 61-seat parliamentary majority in September’s national election. But President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu the first opportunity to form a government because at 55 seats, he had more support than any other candidate.
Netanyahu had hoped to form a broad "unity" government with his chief rival, former military chief Benny Gantz. But late Monday, Netanyahu announced he came up short.
The Prime Minister’s move came after talks between his Likud Party, and Gantz’s Blue and White party – the two biggest factions in Israel’s parliament – broke down, The Washington Post reported.
Netanyahu released a video Monday criticizing Gantz’s supposed unwillingness to allow Likud to take the lead.
Gantz, meanwhile, has rejected Nethanyahu’s invitations for the two leaders to meet. He has accused Netanyahu of wanting to lead a unity government to avoid an indictment on corruption charges.
“Regrettably, Likud is sticking to its precondition of Netanyahu first,” Blue and White said in a statement, cited by The Post.
Rivlin says he will now give Gantz a chance to form a government, though Gantz does not appear to have enough support either.
If Gantz fails, Israel could hold its third election in less than a year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.