The heads of Israel's two largest political parties - Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud and Benny Gantz of Blue and White - met Tuesday afternoon in yet another attempt to agree terms for a unity government before the period in which they can do so expires next week and Israel automatically heads to its third round of elections in a year.
The two met at the Defense Ministry's Tel Aviv headquarters at 5:15 pm at the request of Netanyahu.
The two biggest hurdles to overcome in reaching an agreement are the issue of who would serve as prime minister first in a rotation agreement and whether members of the other parties in Netanyahu's right-wing bloc would also be part of the government.
Blue and White has made it clear that it stands by the demand that Netanyahu give up his bloc of 55 MKs and negotiate only on behalf of the Likud. Netanyahu is equally insistent that he represents all the parties in his alliance.
Gantz has also stated that he would not join a government led by a prime minster who is under indictment. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit last month announced that he was indicting Netanyahu for bribery, breach of trust and fraud for three separate investigations.
Netanyahu on Monday urged Gantz "to take advantage of historic opportunities [for] a unity government."
He said: "I went a long way in efforts towards [forming a unity government] because we need to take advantage of these opportunities. We don't need more elections."
But the Blue and White leader says he will not agree to "staged compromises" while the countdown to new elections continues.
Gantz also called Monday for Netanyahu hold serious negotiations on forming a government.
"Stop the clock, and let's talk about the outline I proposed," he said. "The state should be headed by someone who can unite it from inside and not an illegitimate transitional government headed by a criminal suspect."
Gantz added: "The real challenge is division and a great and unfounded fear of God forbid civil war. Unlike some, I do not want to drag Israel into more expensive and unnecessary elections.
"I understand that as part of the compromise we will not establish the dream government we have been hoping for. I understand that we will have to accept proposed compromises but we won't accept staged compromises."
First published: 16:03 , 12.03.19