When speaking of the current stalemate in Israeli politics, in which neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his rival Benny Gantz, leader of Kachol Lavan, appears capable of forming a coalition without the other, it is too easy to point to lifeless institutions and ideological rivalries as the main causes of the trouble.

It is certainly true that the proportional representation system Israel uses for elections is a recipe for instability. It is likewise the case that deep divides over issues like religion and state make cross-party cooperation a challenge.

The twenty-second Knesset, elected on September 17, features nine political parties represented by 120 members of parliament. Most analysts have decided to group the parties into three blocs: the pro-Netanyahu bloc, a united front of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, has 55 seats; a discordant group of centrist, left-wing Zionist, and Arab political parties opposed to Netanyahu has 57; and Yisrael Beteinu, whose secularist leader Avigdor Liberman has pledged not to sit in a coalition that includes either the religious parties or the Arab ones, controls eight seats.

Yet these are not the main reasons why Israel may be headed toward its third election in just one year. The root cause of Israel’s political crisis is the insatiable personal ambitions of one man, Netanyahu, and his Likud Party’s lack of a political program outside of the leader’s whims and needs. Also at fault are Likud’s religious and right-wing partner parties, who have signed an ill-advised pact with the prime minister, allowing him to negotiate on their behalf as though the entire religious-right bloc were a single electoral list. Without Netanyahu in the picture, the Israeli public’s clearly expressed desire for a secular center-right government can be fulfilled.

Yesterday was the final day of the prime minister’s pre-indictment hearing in three separate corruption cases, in which he is charged with fraud, breach of trust, and bribery.  It is impossible to understand the unprecedented phenomenon of do-over elections in Israel without an appreciation of the seriousness of these charges, and how Netanyahu has chosen to react to them.

In the first case, known as Case 1000, Netanyahu is accused of receiving gifts from the entertainment magnet Arnon Milchan in exchange for official favors. In Case 2000, Netanyahu is recorded on tape proposing a quid pro quo with the owner of Israel’s flagship newspapers. Finally, in the most serious case, Netanyahu is alleged to have conditioned favorable regulatory decisions for the telecommunications giant Bezeq on fawning coverage from one of its websites, the popular Walla! News.

The evidence, including audio recordings and testimony from some of Netanyahu’s closest aides, is damning. Netanyahu is but all certain to be formally indicted before the end of the year, which is why he tried to blow up the process last spring by cajoling his partners to pass an immunity law. According to a report in the Ma’ariv newspaper, the prime minister’s lawyers failed to offer convincing evidence to undermine the most serious allegations against him.

As a result of Netanyahu’s legal burdens, Kachol Lavan refuses to support a prime minister who is facing criminal charges. Gantz ran on a pledge to oust Netanyahu and his party finished first, depriving Netanyahu of majority support. Yair Lapid, Gabi Ashkenazi, and Moshe Ya’alon were right to push back against Gantz’s reported willingness to allow Netanyahu to head a unity government as part of a “paritetic” compromise offered by President Reuven Rivlin.

So far Gantz has held strong, and he should continue to do so. If Lapid’s foregoing of the hopeless rotation agreement last week serves as an incentive for Gantz to hold the line, then all the better, Time is on the side of the opposition and polls indicate that Israelis are placing the blame where it belongs: on the prime minister. Almost everyone knows that if Netanyahu is replaced by a generic Likud member of the Knesset, such as former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, a coalition government with a comfortable majority could be assembled rather quickly, as the ideological differences between Likud and its main challenger, Kachol Lavan, are not nearly as wide as previous coalition government partnerships.

In the past decade alone, Likud has sat in coalition with the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah list, parties that openly support a two-state solution. On the future of the occupied territories, the issue that still animates the Israeli right more than any other, it is difficult to distinguish between Kachol Lavan and Likud on paper. When Netanyahu made his provocative commitment to annex the Jordan Valley, Kachol Lavan accused him of nicking their idea (one hopes in government they will come to their senses and pretend they never supported this ridiculous proposal).

This is why Netanyahu’s latest flip-flop on holding a primary, as well as new demands for statements of loyalty from Likud members, should be seen for the mountainous display of weakness it is. For the first time in a while, Netanyahu’s future appears to be in the hands of his party and not the other way around.

The path to a coalition government is thus already paved: a center-right “unity” government with Likud and Kachol Lavan would have a parliamentary majority, perhaps bolstered by Yisrael Beteinu and what remains of the Labor Party. The lingering obstacle is Netanyahu, who stubbornly holds on to his position instead of quitting to focus on the legal woes for which he alone is responsible. And the lingering question is if Likud will drive off the cliff – a third election – with him.