Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday informed Blue and White head Benny Gantz that his mandate to form a government would now pass to the Knesset, after Gantz failed to present a government by the midnight Wednesday deadline. If after 21 days the Knesset cannot produce a candidate to form a government, it will automatically dissolve, triggering new elections.

In his letter to Gantz, who currently serves as Israel’s Knesset Speaker, Rivlin wrote that as Israel is in a third consecutive election cycle this year, without any elected official able to form a government that would have the confidence of the Knesset, he was passing the mandate back to the Knesset so that “a government will be formed in Israel, as soon as possible… for the 23rd Knesset.”

“I hope that the Knesset members will be able to form a majority in such a way that a government can be formed as soon as possible, and to prevent a fourth round of elections,” he wrote.

According to Israel’s Basic Law: The Government, if the Knesset cannot submit a candidate within the 21-day period, it is automatically dissolved and new elections are called. Anyone who does secure a 61-vote majority has 14 additional days to form a government before an election must be called.

Rivlin’s statement comes after Gantz and incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to sign a unity deal despite Rivlin granting Gantz a 48-hour mandate extension to do so “on the understanding that they are very close to reaching an agreement between them.”

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