Israel moved closer towards holding a third election in less than a year on Wednesday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main challenger failed to form a government.
Benny Gantz’s announcement that he would not meet a midnight deadline following Netanyahu’s own failure to put together a coalition in October deepened political deadlock at a time of mounting security and economic concerns.
There now begins a 21-day period in which Israeli lawmakers can nominate anyone of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers to try and establish a coalition where others have failed.
If that fails too, an election is triggered within 90 days, raising the prospect for a weary electorate of going back to the polls after inconclusive votes in April and September.
The stalemate has shaken Israelis’ confidence as conflicts with Iran and Syria deepen, and has vexed a usually friendly White House, which has had to repeatedly delay a long-awaited Middle East peace plan until an Israeli government is formed.
For Netanyahu, not securing a fifth term as prime minister also has legal implications: It may increase his vulnerability to a possible indictment on corruption charges.