Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has successfully nixed any chance for a unity government. In order to achieve this, he is operating a three-stage campaign.
The first stage was to ensure that the right-wing bloc was behind him. Namely, bring the members of his outgoing coalition into line. He has effectively prevented them from going to Benny Gantz – whose Blue and White party appears to have won more seats than Netanyahu's Likud - behind his back.
The second stage was to lay blame on Gantz for any parliamentary crisis they may arise when no new coalition is achieved and the need for a third round of elections within a year is raised.
Netanyahu on Thursday issued an urgent call through an online video for Gantz to meet and agree on a national unity government.
Gantz and his party saw through the ruse, but that is not to say the prime minister will not be ultimately successful in his efforts in that regard.
The third stage, which Netanyahu believes will be implemented down the road, will be announcing he has tried everything to prevent a third election in less than a year, but it was out of his hands.
The truth as it appears in recent Likud announcements is that Netanyahu does not want a unity government. He does not want to share leadership in an agreed rotation with Gantz.
Netanyahu is also not fearful of another election - because in his mind, the results of Tuesday's ballot do not reflect the will of the Israeli people. They are a mishap, an outlier, that must be corrected.
If Netanyahu had truly been in favor of a unity government, he would have turned to Gantz before signing an agreement Wednesday with the far-right and religious parties, creating an effective parliamentary bloc and foiling any chance of a coalition being formed without him.
Asking Gantz to join him and his long-time coalition partners in government would elicit the same response as asking Haredi Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman to have buses in religious neighborhoods on Shabbat.
While Netanyahu's strategy was already beginning to crystallize - with any and all conceivable options taken into account - Gantz was apparently catching up on his sleep.
What else could explain his failure to call a press conference early Wednesday morning in an effort to pressure some of Netanyahu's coalition partners into dialogue, calling on them to distance themselves from the prime minister who has three corruptions cases pending against him and was unable to muster a majority of the public's support.