Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gives Knesset the mandate to form a government after failed attempts by Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin handed the mandate to form a government coalition to the Knesset, for the first time.

Rivlin met Thursday with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to hand him the formal notice, a day after Blue and White party head Benny Gantz announced he was unable to form a government after 28 days of trying. Gantz’ try came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failed attempt to form a government following national elections in September and April.

“This is the first time in the history of the State of Israel that we have got to this point,” Rivlin said, calling it a “miserable political situation.”

The Knesset now has 21 days to select a lawmaker to lead a majority government or to head to a third election in less than a year.

“And so I would like to turn to each and every member of Knesset. This is one of the most important times for soul-searching the State of Israel has known,” he also said.

“Over these next 21 days, do not be blocs or parties. Each one of you should look to their conscience and answer one question: What is my duty to the State of Israel. Good luck,” Rivlin said.

Edelstein called on the public to pressure lawmakers to not allow a third election to take place. He asserted that the results of an additional election will not be substantially different.

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