Israeli kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman refused on Wednesday to endorse a candidate for prime minister, practically pushing the nation toward a new, third election in less than year.
Lieberman’s comments 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.
The past two elections have been inconclusive and polls indicate the result of a third will not differ significantly.
Looming above the entire process is the long-expected announcement on Netanyahu’s corruption indictment that could remove him from the equation and potentially provide a long-sought way out of the impasse.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges in three separate cases. His final ruling has long been anticipated and could come down in the coming week.
Though Netanyahu will not be compelled by law to step down immediately, it will certainly harden the opposition’s stance.