Blue and White leader Benny Gantz formally accepted the mandate to form a government on Wednesday at the President’s Residence. He will have 28 days starting Wednesday night at midnight. If he cannot build a coalition, there will be three weeks in which any MK can obtain the support of a majority in the Knesset, and if not, Israel will automatically go to its third election in less than a year.In his remarks tasking Gantz with forming a government, President Reuven Rivlin referred to “outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” giving back the mandate after not forming a coalition. In accepting the mandate, Gantz reached out to Likud, but warned Netanyahu not to prevent the formation of a unity government.“Those who try to drag Israel to a third election will be rejected by the people of Israel and will disappear from the political map,” Gantz warned. “The citizens of Israel will not forgive those who put their own personal good first, ahead of the national interest.”Addressing Netanyahu and referring to his three criminal cases, Gantz said “both of us realize that your legal situation necessitates making a change.”While Gantz vowed to form a liberal unity government, he called haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews his brothers. He also spoke about reaching out to the Arab and religious-Zionist sectors without saying he would include them in his government.“I will form a government that will seek peace but will defeat any enemy,” he said.Rivlin pleaded for compromises and an end to “disqualifications,” which was seen as a call to Gantz to end Blue and White’s policy of rejecting any government in which Netanyahu serves as prime minister. “A government can be formed,” Rivlin said. “There is no justification to going to a third election, in which the people of Israel will pay a heavy price.”Gantz called Netanyahu and invited him to meet and Netanyahu said he would get back to him. Likud did not respond to anything Gantz said, but praised Rivlin. The prime minister called on the Blue and White leader to accept a compromise plan offered by Rivlin that calls for Netanyahu to be prime minister first and then take an extended break while fighting corruption charges. According to the plan, Gantz would take Netanyahu’s place as prime minister after initially serving as vice prime minister.Netanyahu convened the leaders of the parties in his political bloc on Wednesday. They decided to negotiate with Blue and White as a bloc and that no party in the bloc would come on its own to talks with Gantz’s party.Negotiating teams from Blue and White and Likud will convene on Sunday at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Maccabiah Hotel to begin the process of forming a government.Likud ministers Yariv Levin and Ze’ev Elkin will represent all 55 MKs in the bloc in the talks. Blue and White objected to that when Netanyahu had the mandate to form the government and insisted on negotiating with the Likud alone.United Torah Judaism head Ya’acov Litzman and New Right leader Ayelet Shaked spoke to Gantz on Wednesday night and told him they would not come to coalition talks because he was represented by Likud.Immediately after accepting the mandate to form a government, Gantz called Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and invited his party to coalition negotiations. Yisrael Beytenu released a statement saying that the party is not in the pocket of either Blue and White or Likud and will only be loyal to its voters. Gantz also called Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz and invited him and his party to talks.Gantz spoke to Joint List head Ayman Odeh and invited him to meet but did not invite his party to coalition talks. At the request of Gantz, the Blue and White negotiating team, led by Yoram Turbowicz, held a brief preparatory meeting with Rivlin in order to present the president with a broad picture of the efforts to be undertaken by Blue and White toward forming a broad and liberal government.