Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz traded accusations on Wednesday morning, after what appeared to have been an unsuccessful meeting aimed at narrowing the gaps on a unity government.
Gantz has until Wednesday midnight to put together a coalition before the mandate returns to President Reuven Rivlin.
The Likud and Blue and White leaders met late Tuesday evening in Jerusalem in a last-ditch attempt to close the gaps on a unity government, with the two sharing a rotating premiership. The two met for about an hour and did not issue a joint statement to the media after the meeting.
"Unfortunately, during our meeting last night, Benny Gantz refused to accept the president's outline that I, as prime minister, will be the first in rotation for the premiership,” said Netanyahu, adding that accepting the outline was primary condition put forward by the apparent kingmaker - Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman.
"Liberman said he will side with the party that accepts the outline. Now it remains to be seen whether Avigdor Liberman stays true to his word," Netanyau said.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader said earlier in the week if there is no unity government by Wednesday afternoon it’s “every man for himself.” He was expected to make an official statement at 1pm Wednesday.
Gantz, who opposes the entire right-wing-religious bloc joining Netanyahu in the potential unity government, said a coalition “cannot be built on a sectoral bloc."
A senior Blue and White official later said the meeting between the two was a “show” Netanyahu put on for Liberman to persuade him that he is willing to enter a unity government.
"Netanyahu has already decided to go to elections, because that's what his attorneys are telling him, and all he's trying to do now is to shift the responsibility onto Gantz."
Gantz has a midnight deadline Wednesday to present a potential coalition government. If he fails, as expected, the country enters the final 21-day period for a candidate to present a majority before new elections are called. At that point, any MK can nominate a prime ministerial candidate, so long as they have the support 61 lawmakers.
Associated Press contributed to this report