Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has missed a midnight deadline for putting together a new coalition government.
His failure to reach an agreement late Tuesday raises the possibility that Netanyahu’s Likud party could be pushed into the opposition for the first time in 12 years.
The matter now bounces back to Israel’s figurehead president, Reuven Rivlin, who is expected to consult with leaders of the parties elected to parliament in March before deciding how to proceed.
The turmoil does not mean that Netanyahu will immediately be forced out as prime minister. But he suddenly faces a serious threat to his lengthy rule.
His opponents already have been holding informal talks in recent weeks to lay the groundwork for a power-sharing deal.
Netanyahu has struggled to secure a parliamentary majority since March 23 — when elections ended in deadlock for the fourth consecutive time in the past two years.
Despite repeated meetings with many of his rivals and unprecedented outreach to the leader of a small Islamist Arab party, Netanyahu has not been able to close a deal during a four-week window.
He suffered a last minute defeat late Tuesday after a key committee failed to hold a vote on his proposal to stage direct elections for the premiership.
A main rival, Benny Gantz, said Netanyahu “failed again to form a government. It is now your duty to think of the country, to look honestly at reality and concede your failure.”