Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday won a plurality of nominations by his fellow lawmakers to form the next government and potentially keep his position.
The Likud chairman became the likely forerunner after ally-turned-foe Gideon Saar's New Hope decided to abstain and not recommend any candidate for prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin, thus ensuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to most endorsements.
Netanyahu received 52 votes, while Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid had 45 and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett had seven.
Netanyahu has been backed by his own Likud Party (30 votes) and his right-wing electoral bloc, constituting of the ultra-Orthodox Shas (9) and United Torah Judaism parties (7) and the Religious Zionist alliance (6).
Lapid was backed by his own party (17), Blue & White (8), Yisrael Beitenu (7), Labor (7) and Meretz (6).
Bennett was backed by his own party which holds seven seats in the next Knesset.
The Arab Ra'am (4) and Joint List (6) parties joined New Hope (6) in refusing to endorse a candidate.
In his first public statement since the March 23 election, Lapid said that he offered Naftali Bennett to form a government on a rotational basis, with the Yamina leader first to serve as prime minister.
He urged his potential partners to stand firm against Benjamin Netanyahu's attempts to dismantle their parties in order to garner the majority he needs.
"[Netanyahu] has no government, he has no majority, he is beholden to the extremists. This is a long game, the winner will be the one who is determined enough, patient enough and focused on their objectives," he said.
"There has never been a more just political battle and it will only end with our victory."
Earlier, New Hope representatives requested President Rivlin to broker a power-sharing agreement between Lapid and Bennett.
The president rejected the proposal, calling such a move a “political intervention.”