Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ended his quest to form a new coalition, the president said, in a step that pushes the country into new political uncertainty.
Mr Netanyahu fell short of securing a 61-seat parliamentary majority in last month’s national election, but President Reuven Rivlin gave him the first opportunity to form a government because he had more support, 55 seats, than any other candidate.
The PM had hoped to form a broad “unity” government with his chief rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, but late on Monday, Mr Netanyahu announced he had come up short.
Mr Rivlin said he will give Mr Gantz a chance to form a government, although the former army man does not appear to have enough support either.
If Mr Gantz fails, Israel could hold its third election in less than a year.