While Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz both supported calls for a unity government, they disagreed on who should take charge. The second Israeli election of the year has left the country in a political deadlock.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's offer of a unity government was rejected on Thursday by former army general Benny Gantz.
Moshe Yaalon, a senior leader from Gantz's centrist Blue and White Party, announced, "We will not enter a coalition led by Netanyahu."
Instead, Gantz expressed his wish to become prime minister.
"If Netanyahu moves aside, we'll have a unity government," announced Gantz's second-in-command, Yair Lapid.
"In order to make a unity government you don't come with spin and blocs," said Gantz on Thursday. "I intend to establish a wide liberal unity government."
An ally of Netanyahu, David Bitan, responded by saying, "Everyone will need to get off their high horse to prevent elections for a third time. Blue and White's desire for a unity government under their terms will not work."
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who is responsible for deciding the next prime minister, announced that he will start consultations on Sunday to decide who should form the next government. Rivlin will meet with all parties voted into parliament before choosing someone to form a government.
'Broad unity government'
Netanyahu had proposed forming a unity government following Tuesday's indecisive election, saying the election results left no other choice.
In a video message, the Israeli prime minister conceded there was no way he would be able to form a right-wing government after the second general election of the year ended in deadlock.
"During the elections, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government," Netanyahu said. "But, unfortunately, the election results show that this is not possible."
He said he opposed going to a third election and then urged Gantz to form a "broad unity government today."
Two votes in one year
Gantz had backed the idea of a "good, desirable unity government," but had previously ruled out entering into one with Netanyahu, who faces possible corruption charges. The 69-year-old, Israel's longest-serving leader, has denied any wrongdoing.
Tuesday's election marked the first time Israel has held two votes in one year. The ballot was called after Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party failed to win enough votes to form a coalition following elections in April.
While the official results of the repeat poll have not yet been announced, Israeli media have reported that the Blue and White party has 33 out of 120 parliamentary seats and Likud has 31.
nm,ed/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)