Barring a political earthquake, Israel appears to be on course for its third national election in the space of twelve months. Nearly three weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the mandate from President Reuven Rivlin to attempt to form a coalition, the parties remain deadlocked, and Avigdor Liberman’s recently-announced proposal for a unity government has only complicated things.

Under Liberman’s proposal, released in a Facebook post at the end of Yom Kippur, a unity government is to be formed between Kachol Lavan (33 seats), Likud (32), and Yisrael Beiteinu (8). Ostensibly, the recommendation would require compromises from both Likud and Kachol Lavan.

Netanyahu and Likud will be required to cede control over the right-wing “bloc,” the smaller parties the prime minister is currently negotiating on behalf of. For Benny Gantz and Kachol Lavan, accepting the Rivlin proposal means Netanyahu will serve first in a rotating premiership, something Kachol Lavan adamantly opposed on the campaign trail. Notably, however, it also requires Netanyahu to take an extended leave of absence should he be indicted.

The responses from both parties were mixed. Kachol Lavan reacted generally positively to the proposal, endorsing the idea of Netanyahu leaving his bloc but not directly addressing the question of his remaining prime minister ahead of Gantz. The Likud response was far more critical, repeating the easily disproved claim that Liberman is part of the left for refusing to denounce a Gantz government with the support of the Arabs.

Liberman, for his part, hasn’t minced words. During an interview with Maariv’s Ben Caspit, Liberman said Netanyahu doesn’t understand the meaning of friendship or trust, described foreign affairs minister and Likudnik Yisrael Katz as a pathetic liar, and labeled Culture Minister Miri Regev, also a Likud member, an “animal.” If anyone expected an apology, the day after Yom Kippur only saw Liberman sharpen his tone. “Netanyahu is talking about unity but in practice he doing everything he can to make it fail, my job is to make sure he has no other choice,” the Yisrael Beiteinu leader told Hadashot’s Oded Ben-Ami on the evening news. “I’m not in a rush – we will wait for the mandate to pass over to Gantz,” he continued. And if anyone expected regret for calling Miri Regev and animal, that answer is no, or as Liberman put it: “I was very gentle in my words.”

The clock is ticking and Netanyahu will likely return the mandate to form a government to President Rivlin in the next week, leading to the most challenging moment of Benny Gantz’s political career thus far. The former IDF chief of staff will need to weave through the intricacies of Israeli politics. His first option will be to try to push for a Likud revolt. Last week, Netanyahu rival Gideon Saar’s tweet declaring his readiness for Likud primaries signaled that an internal party coup could be on the horizon, but this will nevertheless be difficult, especially without an indictment announcement from the attorney general still at least two months away. Gantz could try to entice the ultra-Orthodox to leave their traditional right-wing partners but he risks losing the secularist Liberman.

The key to the government may be an unconventional proposal to Avigdor Liberman, an interim coalition with Labor, plus outside support from the Democratic Union, and the predominantly Arab Joint List or vice-versa. In the long run, this solution would be unpalatable for Kachol Lavan and Liberman, as well as for the right-wing Likud. The hope would be that pressure would mount within Likud to oust Netanyahu in order to pull the coalition away from the left, bringing Israelis to the center-right unity government many wanted from the start. This may sound far-fetched but in Israeli politics, the unthinkable often becomes a reality.

Many have thought that once pressured, Liberman would return to his natural right-wing partners and help Netanyahu form a government, that is proving to be not the case. On the contrary, Liberman has been seen cozying up to Benny Gantz and is increasingly critical of Netanyahu and his closest supporters. The question now is, as before, what the Yisrael Beiteinu chief does next.