Party leaders from Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing bloc have - for now - declined to sign a petition drafted by the prime minister's Likud party seeking a 14-day extension to the current period allowing any lawmaker to try to put together a coalition government.
The Likud petition names Netanyahu as the person it backs in this effort, which aims to avert a third round of elections in 12 months.
Both Likud and Benny Gantz's Blue and White party are scrambling to gather support from 61 Knesset members in order to be tasked with forming the next government. The current 21-day period in which any lawmaker can try to put together a coalition comes after both Netanyahu and Gantz failed to do so in the 28 days allocated to each following the Sept. 17 elections.
According to the Israel's election laws, the president can grant an extension of the allotted time to form a coalition if at least 61 members of Knesset request it and cite their support a particular candidate.
Likud gave its political partners until 9am Sunday to sign the petition backing Netanyahu, but New Right co-leader Ayelet Shaked, United Torah Judaism head Yaakov Litzman, Jewish Home-Tkuma's Bezalel Smotrich and Shas chair Aryeh Deri all declined.
Shaked and Smotrich said in closed-door conversations that there was no rush to sign such a document, arguing that there were still 11 days until this current period expires and that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had also not yet signed.
Israeli law permits any lawmaker to back more than one candidate in named in a petition to extend the period for forming a government.
Without Liberman's eight seats, neither Gantz nor Netanyahu can form a stable coalition. Liberman has pledged to sign petitions supporting both Gantz and Netanyahu, who head Israel's two largest parties, provided they each commit to forming a national unity government with the other.
Both parties are still at odds, with Blue and White insisting that they will not join a coalition under Netanyahu until he is cleared of all criminal charges and Likud insisting the prime minister must be first to head a unity government formed in a rotation deal.
Meanwhile, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party Aryeh Deri said that he would not sign the petition as it would be playing into the hands of the staunchly anti-religious Liberman.
None of Netanyahu's partners cited his recent indictment for bribery, breach of trust and fraud as a reason for not signing.
Support for a candidate to be given a 14-day period to form a coalition does not mean automatic support for any government that may be introduced. Some in the political sphere consider this latest effort a waste of time.
First published: 12:34 , 12.01.19