One of the key figures Netanyahu needs to get onboard is former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Yamina party.
Bennett appeared to reject an offer by Netanyahu to rotate the Premiership on Monday, even though the offer included Bennett going first in the rotation.
But even if he changes his mind over the course of the day, that still would not be enough for Netanyahu to enjoy a majority in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
For that to happen, the Israeli leader either needs to win over two more lawmakers from parties currently pledged to oppose him, or somehow find a way for his allies in the extreme-right Religious Zionist Party to accept joining a government that would be supported by the United Arab List, an Islamist party led by Mansour Abbas, something they have thus far ruled out.
If there is no breakthrough by midnight (5 p.m. ET) Netanyahu can ask President Reuven Rivlin for two more weeks’ negotiating time.
Even though it is customary for the President to grant such a request, Rivlin has indicated his frustrations with proceedings since the poll on March 23 — the country’s fourth election in two years — so the Prime Minister will know he cannot take such an extension for granted.
Instead, Rivlin could decide to ask Yair Lapid to try to form a government.
Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party came second behind Netanyahu’s Likud in the election, and the former TV news anchor has been hard at work over the last four weeks trying to assemble his own coalition of allies.
Like Netanyahu, Lapid has also offered Bennett the chance to go first in a rotating Premiership that would lead a government made up of a broad array of parties from the far-right to the left.