Over the next 82 days, the leaders, Knesset members and strategists for political parties will attempt to highlight their differences in order to win your vote.They will blame one another for the third election. They will even say the coalition negotiations never really even got off the ground. Don’t believe them.They were closer to forming a government this time than when the Knesset dispersed itself last time on May 30.And they were close last time, too. That was when then-Labor leader Avi Gabbay spent the night at the Prime Minister’s Residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street hammering out a deal to take his party’s six MKs – or at least two of them – into the coalition.Gabbay gave in to pressure when the deal was revealed prematurely, and he has since regretted not signing on the dotted line and becoming finance minister.This time, an agreement between the Likud and Blue and White on a unity government was written in great detail. Lawyers from both sides hammered out arrangements to facilitate a coalition to the smallest details.They worked hardest on the most complicated issue: how to enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to leave his post – as soon as possible for Blue and White, and as respectfully as possible for him.Maariv’s Ben Caspit reported it in great detail on Tuesday, and since then sources in both parties have confirmed the report.Netanyahu was to leave office on May 4, 2020, right after Independence Day celebrations. Both Netanyahu and Gantz would have been sworn in as prime minister this month – Netanyahu as prime minister and Gantz as the prime minister-designate in a rotation.A law would have been passed to create Gantz’s post and ensure that Netanyahu left his on time. The bill would have even prevented the Knesset’s dispersal before the end of the term, ensuring long-awaited stability.Shas leader Arye Deri and New Right head Ayelet Shaked told Gantz they would join him and leave Netanyahu if the Likud leader tried to get out of the deal.Why did Gantz ultimately reject the offer? Was it because he still does not trust Netanyahu, because he feels Netanyahu treated him disrespectfully, or because his No. 2, MK Yair Lapid, finally offered to give up their own rotation if a third election would be initiated?Apparently all three.There was also the Avigdor Liberman factor.The Yisrael Beytenu leader hinting he would join both right- and left-wing narrow governments at strategic times when a unity deal was close led both sides falsely astray and made it harder for them to compromise.Now, Liberman says he accepts “zero percent blame” for the election. But it is possible a deal could have been reached had the supposed kingmaker disappeared.The two sides were close. So close, yet so far away.