Nov. 21 (UPI) -- After the two main winners of elections in September failed to form a coalition government, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday handed the mandate over to lawmakers hoping it will stave off the need for the third election in less than a year.
Rivlin first gave the mandate to form a government to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then when he failed, to opposition leader Benny Gantz. Neither were successful in attracting enough support for a majority coalition.
Never before has the parliamentary body been tasked with putting together Israel's unity government.
If the Knesset fails, Rivlin may have no other choice but to schedule a third election for early next year. Thursday, he scolded Netanyahu, Gantz and their Likud and Blue and White parties for failing to find common ground for the good of Israel.
"When the last two Knesset terms began, I asked you to set aside your election swords and clean away the dirt," Rivlin said. "I told you that political considerations must no longer be what solely guides you. You must show awareness of our sovereignty, statesmanship and responsibility for the people of this dear land."
Rivlin gave Knesset members three weeks to form the elusive ruling coalition.
"Over these next 21 days, do not be blocs or parties," he said. "Each one of you should look to their conscience and answer one question: 'What is my duty to the State of Israel?'"
The prospect of a new coalition may now be even less likely, after prosecutors indicted Netanyahu Thursday on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.