President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday afternoon concluded consultations on who to task next with forming a new government, with Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid emerging as the likely candidate.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's deadline for forming a government expired on midnight, with the country's longest-serving prime minister having failed to break more than two years of political deadlock.
Lapid appears to have 56 recommendations to be the next candidate to receive the mandate, including from Gideon Saar's New Hope party and five out of six MKs from the predominantly Arab Joint List. Bennett has seven. The right-wing bloc, headed by Netanyahu, said they ask for the mandate to be transferred to the Knesset.
The round of consultations got off to a rocky start with Yamina MK Amichai Chikli saying he will "oppose a government with the left-wing", referring to a potential coalition with Lapid. Yamina in response said they "respect" Chikli's stance but are "determined" to form a government.
"Yamina is committed to doing everything in its power to form a stable and functioning government in order to prevent the deterioration into chaos of the fifth election, and it will do so."
The president earlier said party leaders must inform him of their recommended candidate to be tapped to attempt government building by 2pm on Wednesday.
"According to section 9 of the Basic Law: The Government, the president is considering summoning before him the MKs, and candidates for the position of forming government, as well as accepting the position of all the factions [on who should be the candidate], as long as they are interested," the President's Office said in a statement.
Harel Toby, who heads the President's Office, asked the heads of the parties to present their recommendations to Rivlin in writing. He added that in addition to Bennett and Lapid, "other meetings will be scheduled at the request of faction members and at the president's discretion."
The right-wing bloc said earlier they will not recommend Bennett due to Yamina leader's refusal to commit to not forming a government with the anti-Netanyahu bloc, in the event the mandate is transferred to him.
"Due to Bennett's refusal to commit to a right-wing government, which would certainly have led to the formation of a government, the prime minister returned the mandate back to the president," Likud said in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report
First published: 09:29 , 05.05.21