Israel is heading towards an unprecedented third election in one year after both Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival failed to form a government and were unable to agree a deal for a unity coalition.
As a midnight deadline passed, there was no last-minute deal between the two sides and MPs instead voted through a bill to send Israelis to the polls for a third time in 11 months on March 2, 2020.
By a vote of 94 in favour to none opposed, lawmakers approved a motion dissolving parliament and setting the new election date.
Mr Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue & White party, blamed each other for what has become the worst stalemate in Israeli political history.
Mr Gantz said the prime minister was dragging the country into new elections to try to win a Right-wing majority which would grant him immunity from the criminal corruption charges he faces. He denies wrongdoing.
"It now seems that we will be going into a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” Mr Gantz said.
Mr Netanyahu said Mr Gantz and his allies had never seriously entered into negotiations on a unity government.
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“It’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government,” he said.
Polls show essentially a repeat of the last election in September when Mr Gantz’s Blue & White won the most seats but had no clear path to forming a majority centre-Left government.
Mr Netanyahu’s Likud came second but was unable to form a Right-wing government while Avigdor Lieberman, leader of a secular nationalist party, held the balance of power but refused to back either side.
Mr Netanyahu has been weakened by the criminal indictments and his failure to win either of the last two elections outright but still largely retains the loyalty of his Likud party and his voter base.