Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is undermining democracy by suggesting legislation that would ban a politician under criminal indictment from becoming prime minister.
Center and left-wing parties had announced their initiative to table the motion.
"The public has given me more votes than any other candidate and the Likud is the largest party by far," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu spoke at the beginning of a meeting of his coalition factions at the Knesset lamented that Gantz had said the leader of the faction that has most votes should lead the government.
"He lost the elections, lies to his voters and tries to hurt me. My friends and I along with millions of citizens will not allow this to happen," the prime minister said claiming he is within reach of the majority he needs to form a coalition.
After 99% of the votes were counted, Netanyahu's rightwing and religious parliamentary bloc received 58 out of the 120 seats with Likud leading Blue & White 36 seats to 33.
Gantz posted his response on his Twitter account saying Netanyahu should "drink a glass of water, relax, wait for the final election results and pledge to respect them."
Official results of the March 2 elections will be announced Thursday.
Netanyahu said he could have received more votes if he would have agreed to steps that would have "set the Middle East on fire," alluding to the extreme far-right Jewish Power party leader's call to remove the Islamic trust from their control of the Temple Mount and its religious sites. "I would not set the region on fire to win elections," he said.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, leader of the Shas party said the right-wing bloc received half a million votes more than the center-left and that there is no doubt as to the winner. "We will not allow election results to be changed by legislation," he said.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett who heads the Yamina faction said, Blue & White are pickpocketing the Israeli public and stealing victory from the Nationalist camp, "Israel is facing the worst political crisis since its establishment but our enemies are wrong to believe they can challenge us."
Health Minister Yaacov Litzman said the prime minister took the time to hear experts on how best to deal with the coronavirus threat, "all the while people are plotting to hurt him, how absurd," he said.
The proposed legislation to block Netanyahu from forming a government could be tabled as of March 17, when the new Knesset will be sworn in. That is also the date set for the beginning of the prime minister's criminal trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
First published: 20:09, 03.04.20