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Netanyahu campaigns ahead of the election. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government before his mandate expired on Tuesday night, putting him in the most vulnerable position he has faced politically since becoming prime minister in 2009.

Why it matters: This is the third time in the last two years that Netanyahu has had the first crack at forming a government but failed to do so. But this time, his rivals may be able to form a government without him.

What's next: President Reuven Rivlin has three days to hold consultations with the various parties before deciding who will receive the mandate next.

  • Rivlin’s aides tell me he's most likely to give the mandate to the centrist opposition leader, Yair Lapid, who has at least 45 members behind him in the 120-seat Knesset.

Behind the scenes: For almost two weeks, it has been clear that Netanyahu didn't have a path to a majority.

  • He has focused instead on trying to drive a wedge between Lapid and Naftali Bennett, the leader of a right-wing party. The two have been negotiating toward an alternative government.
  • Netanyahu considered unprecedented steps to try to sabotage the transfer of the mandate to Lapid, Tal Shalev reported for Walla News, including falsely notifying Rivlin that he formed a government. After his plans were exposed, he backed off.
  • Netanyahu has also considered ordering his right-wing bloc to recommend to Rivlin that he give the mandate to Bennett, rather than Lapid. Netanyahu could then pressure Bennett to negotiate only with his fellow conservatives. But that plan too fell apart after Bennett refused to rule out negotiations with Lapid.

The state of play: The outlines of a potential Lapid-Bennett power-sharing deal are already clear.

  • Despite Bennett's party only winning seven seats in the Knesset, Lapid would allow him to serve as prime minister for two years before he would rotate into the job for another two years.
  • The center-left, which won more seats, would control most government ministries, however. All government decisions would have to be decided by consensus, and each bloc would have veto power.
  • The government would steer clear of controversial ideological issues and focus on the post-COVID recovery, the economy and restoring some unity to the country after four consecutive election campaigns.

Yes, but: It's no sure thing that Lapid and Bennett will be able to iron out all the remaining issues and replace Israel's longest-serving prime minister.

What to watch: For Netanyahu, this is a desperate moment. In addition to watching the mandate pass to his rivals, he's also facing an ongoing corruption trial that could eventually land him in prison.

  • Still, the lesson of recent Israeli politics is to never count him out.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Tokyo Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him. Moments later, Kieran Smith grabbed a third medal for the U.S. when he won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

DOJ won't investigate nursing home deaths in N.Y. and 2 other states

People who've lost loved ones due to COVID-19 while they were in New York nursing homes attend a March protest and vigil in New York City. As of this month, Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has decided not to launch a civil rights investigation into whether policies in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan contributed to pandemic deaths in nursing homes, according to a letter sent to Republicans.

Why it matters: The Trump DOJ requested data from the three states plus New Jersey last August "amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19," per AP.

Former Blizzard CEO says he "failed” women at the studio

Image: Neville Elder / Getty Images

Mike Morhaime, who co-founded and worked at video game studio Blizzard for 28 years, has apologized publicly for toxic work conditions at his former studio, which is now the subject of a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by the state of California.

Why it matters: Morhaime is no longer at Blizzard, but was its leader for most of its existence and therefore was in charge when much of what is alleged in California’s suit would have occurred.