Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Israel's national parliament dissolved at midnight Wednesday, sending the country back to the polls for an unprecedented third time in a year after political leaders failed to break through the ongoing deadlock to form a new government.
Under Israeli law, the Knesset had until midnight to form a new government of a least 61 of the 120 seats in the parliament, but when the deadline passed an election was automatically called for March.
Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, will remain prime minister as he had since the first election in April and through the second one in September until enough seats can be cobbled together to create a coalition government.
Both Netanyahu and his main rival ex-military chief Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party, which had won one seat more in the Knesset over the Likud Party with 33 in September, said they had wanted to avoid another election but on Wednesday they took to blaming the other for the failure.
The Blue and White Party "forced new elections on us," Netanyahu said in a video posted online. "It is unnecessary and in order to avoid it happening again there is one thing to do and that is to win and win big -- and that is what we'll do."
Yair Lapid, who co-chairs the Blue and White Party with Gantz, blamed the cause of the new election on bribery, fraud and breach of trust, charges that prosecutors brought against Netanyahu last month.
"[Elections that] used to be a celebration of democracy have become a moment of shame for this building," Lapid said.
Meanwhile, Avigdor Liberman, leader of the eight-seat Yisrael Beiteinu Party, blamed both of them for failing to compromise on forming a coalition government.
"Neither Likud nor Blue and White wanted a unity government," he said during a faction meeting in the Knesset.
Earlier in the day, Liberman chastized the prime minister in a statement posted to Facebook for spreading "slander, distortions and deliberately malicious narratives" about him and his family.
He then reiterated his stance that "I made it clear that Yisrael Beytenu will only support a unity government."
The Knesset was then to vote on changing the date of the upcoming election from the automatically called election for March 10, which is a Jewish holiday, to March 2.