Benjamin Netanyahu gave up his effort to form a new government on Monday after failing to secure a majority coalition, creating an opportunity for centrist rival Benny Gantz to replace Israel’s longest serving prime minister.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, said he had been unable to form a government following an election in September, and was returning the mandate back to Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin said he intends to task Gantz with the job of putting together a new government.
"In the past weeks I made every effort to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table, every effort to establish a broad national government, every effort to avoid another election," Netanyahu said.
Gantz also has no clear path to a majority, and should he come up short, it would almost certainly lead to another general election, the third since April.
Gantz’s Blue and White party said in a statement it was "determined to form a liberal unity government."
Netanyahu, in power for the past decade and 13 years in total, has seen his political strength wane as he faces a looming indictment on corruption allegations he denies. Gantz, a former military chief, has pledged not to serve in a government under a premier facing criminal charges.
Likud placed second in the September ballot with 32 seats in the 120-member parliament, behind 33 for Blue and White.