Gantz (L) with President Rivlin. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, has notified Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that he has failed to form a coalition government ahead of tonight's deadline.

Why it matters: Gantz's failure comes 28 days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself failed to form a government following September's deadlocked elections. Never before have both leading candidates failed to form a government. Israel could soon be headed for its third elections in less than a year.

What's next: In the next 21 days, Rivlin will continue his consultations with Israel's various parties.

  • The mandate to form a government will by law go to any member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, who can gain the support of a majority, meaning 61 members.
  • If no one manages to gain 61 signatures within 21 days, the Knesset will dissolve and Israel will head for elections once again.

What they're saying: At a press conference, Gantz said he tried to form a national unity government but Netanyahu refused to negotiate in good faith.

  • Gantz said Netanyahu was holding the country hostage due to his personal and political interests.
  • Gantz also attacked Netanyahu for engaging in “an incitement campaign” against him and against parts of the Israeli society.
  • “The hate campaign you are fueling has already caused a disaster in the past. We will not allow you to ignite a civil war," Gantz said, referring to the incitement against former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin prior to his murder in 1995.  

Driving the news: Israeli politics have been deadlocked as a result of three looming corruption indictments against Netanyahu.

  • The attorney general is expected to announce his final decision on three cases of bribery, fraud and breach of trust as soon as tomorrow.
  • That decision could have a big influence on the political calculations of all the key players over the next 21 days — especially if Netanyahu is indicted for bribery.

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