April 16 (UPI) -- Israeli President Reuven Rivlin handed over charge of putting together a unity government to the Knesset on Thursday, allowing it three weeks to prevent a fourth election.
Talks between the two seesawed from optimism to accusation in the weeks since the third election on March 2, when neither party won enough support to form a majority government.
Rivlin gave the mandate to Gantz a month ago and denied his request this week for an extension. He'd told Netanyahu this week he would not be given the mandate.
"We are in a third consecutive election campaign this year, without any elected official able to form a government that would have the confidence of the Knesset," Rivlin said. "As president, it is my duty according to basic law: The government to act in a way that a government will be formed in Israel, as soon as possible, and in accordance with this I have used my authority."
The Knesset now will have 21 days to form a government. If it fails, the body would be disbanded and a fourth national election will be set. The first and second elections, in April and September last year, failed to produce a coalition government.
Netanyahu and Gantz reported some progress this week toward forming a coalition, but the primary sticking point seemed to be the selection of the judiciary. Likud had sought ways to protect Netanyahu, who is under indictment on fraud charges in Israeli court.
Under Israeli law, deputy prime ministers and other cabinet members must resign if they're under indictment. Likud sought changes to prevent Netanyahu to be affected by that rule, but Blue and White negotiators refused.
Blue and White members accused the Likud Party of trying to win immunity for Netanyahu.