The Latest: Netanyahu challenger fails to form coalition

National News
Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu

Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, right, reaches out to shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an official memorial for former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his wife Leah, commemorating 24 years since the assassination of Rabin, at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (Heidi Levine/Pool via AP)

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on Israeli politics (all times local):

8:05 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s challenger says he has failed to form a governing coalition by a Wednesday deadline.

Wednesday’s announcement by Benny Gantz deals a major setback to his hopes of replacing the long-serving Netanyahu and could set the stage for the country’s third election in under a year.

Gantz had been tapped by the country’s president to form a government after Netanyahu failed at the task last month. But like Netanyahu, Gantz was unable to muster the support of a majority in the 120-seat parliament.

He said he had informed Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, of his decision.

With his announcement, parliament has 21 days to rally behind Gantz, Netanyahu or a third dark-horse candidate. If that fails, the country would be forced to hold elections in March.

___

1:25 p.m.

Israeli kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman has refused to endorse a candidate for prime minister, practically pushing the nation toward a new, third election this year.

Lieberman’s comments on Wednesday were widely anticipated as a midnight deadline closes in on Benny Gantz’s window to present a coalition government.

If Gantz fails, which is now all but guaranteed, the country enters the final 21-day period for a candidate to present a majority before new elections are called.

Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his chief challenger Gantz has the required majority to build a coalition government with like-minded allies. Lieberman has refused to give either the nudge for the required majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament and has urged them to join in a unity government as a way out of the stalemate but those efforts have failed.

___

8:50 a.m.

Israel faces the increasing likelihood of a third election after another fruitless meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger Benny Gantz.

Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz have the required majority to build a coalition government. Kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman has refused to give either the nudge for the required majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament and has urged them to join in a unity government as a way out of the stalemate.

But Gantz and Netanyahu have refused to bend on their conditions for such an agreement. Their meeting late Tuesday made no headway.

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.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.