Israelis were contending with the prospect of a third election, two days after an unprecedented repeat election left the country's two main political parties deadlocked, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his rivals holding a clear path to a coalition government.
While weeks of negotiations to form a coalition government lay ahead, conditions set by the parties could hobble the task within the allotted time, prompting a never-before held third election.
With nearly all votes counted Thursday, Israel's centrist Kahol Lavan party stood at 33 seats in Israel's 120-seat parliament. Netanyahu's conservative Likud stood at 31 seats.
Israel Election, 2019 - in Pictures
Neither party can form a government without the support of the election's apparent kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beitenu party. His insistence on a secular government would force out Netanyahu's traditional allies, the country's two ultra-Orthodox parties and another nationalist-religious party.
Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan has pledged not to sit in the same government as Netanyahu, as the long-serving Israeli leader is expected to face indictment in a slew of corruption scandals. The fiercely loyal Likud is unlikely to oust Netanyahu.
On Thursday, Netanyahu called on Gantz to join him and his traditional allies in a unity government. There was no immediate response from Kahol Lavan.
Both parties were meeting with allies in the vote's aftermath and the focus will soon shift to President Reuven Rivlin, who will consult with all parties in the coming days and select the candidate who he believes has the best chance of putting together a stable coalition.
The candidate has 42 days to do so and, if he fails, the president can give another candidate 28 days to form a coalition. If that fails, the president can assign another parliament member the task of building a government, or he can call new elections, something that has never happened.
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