President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday handed back the mandate to form a government to the Knesset, lambasting both Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud for failing to put together coalition in the wake of the Sept. 17 elections.
Gantz on Wednesday evening conceded that he was unable to form a government in the allotted time, after Netanyahu came to the same conclusion.
Appearing alongside Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the president's official residence in Jerusalem, Rivlin said that this is the first time Israel's leaders have been unable to form a government - even after an unprecedented two elections in six months - and called on politicians to set aside their own interests in the interests of the people they serve.
"Mr. Speaker, yesterday MK and former IDF Chief of Staff Benjamin Gantz informed me that he was unable to form a government," Rivlin said.
"Mr. Gantz is the second candidate who has tried and failed to form a government, after the outgoing prime minister Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government.
"This is the first time in the history of the State of Israel that we have got to this point. I would like to remind you that this miserable political situation comes after a second round of elections, forced on Israeli citizens after the 21st Knesset decided to dissolve itself.
"This means, according to law, that from today and for 21 days, the decision who will form the government is in the hands of the members of Knesset. And so I would like to turn to each and every member of Knesset. This is one of the most important times for soul-searching the State of Israel has known."
He also urged lawmakers to consider the people they are supposed to represent and what is best for them.
"At the opening of the 21st and the 22nd Knessets, I called on you to put down the cudgels of elections and to wipe the slate clean. I implored you to understand that political considerations can no longer be your only guide," he said.
"And that we do not just need a government that can rule, but also a sense of sovereignty, statehood and responsibility for this entire, dear people – all its tribes and sectors – living on its land, and which you lead," he said.
"Let there be no illusions: this politics of disruption has to stop. Your political fate is no more important than the old person in hospital, than the children in special education, than the victims of violence in the Arab sector, than the residents of the south – Jewish, Arab, ultra-Orthodox and secular – who need protection from rocket fire, and than the women who need shelter.
"Over these next 21 days, do not be blocs or parties. Each one of you should look to their conscience and answer one question: 'What is my duty to the State of Israel?'"
With the failure of Netanyahu and Gantz, any lawmaker can now try to put together a coalition, requiring the support of 61 of the 120 lawmakers in the Knesset.
Should no government be formed, fresh elections - the third in a year - will be held.