The office of President Reuven Rivlin said on Monday evening that Netanyahu had announced he would be "returning the mandate to form the government to the president because he was unable to do [so]".
"In the past weeks I made every effort to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table, every effort to establish a broad national government, every effort to avoid another election".
Netanyahu or Gantz could be in the running again at this point.
After almost a month of fraught negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has abandoned his attempt to form a new government.
"The time of spin is over; it is now time for action", his party said in a statement posted to Twitter.
If he eventually failed to form a government when the 28 days deadline elapses, his rival Benny Gantz is expected to take over to try to achieve same.
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"Blue and White is determined to create the liberal unity government led by Gantz that the people elected a month ago".
In an earlier election in April, Mr Netanyahu also failed to win a parliamentary majority and was forced to call the indecisive September 17 election.
He then opted to have parliament dissolve itself and send the country to a re-vote in September, rather than risk another politician getting the chance to lead negotiations. He also launched racist attacks at Gantz's coalition, saying that Blue and White can not be trusted because its effort to form a government will be backed Knesset members from the Joint List, the parties representing Israeli Arabs.
Gantz (Left) and Netanyahu (Right).
If Mr Gantz fails during his 28-day window, a majority of lawmakers could try to endorse a third candidate, something that has never happened before.
Should he also fail to bring in enough partners it would nearly certainly lead to another general election, the third since April.