Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on his main challenger Benny Gantz on Thursday to form a unity government together as election results showed both without an obvious path to a majority coalition.
Netanyahu, in a video message, said he preferred to form a right-wing coalition, but the results showed it was not possible.
The admission was a major development following Israel’s general election on Tuesday that has put Netanyahu’s status as the country’s longest-serving prime minister at risk.
“During the elections, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government,” Netanyahu said.
“But unfortunately the election results show that this is not possible.”
He went on to call on Gantz to form a “broad unity government today”.
Gantz had not yet responded, but he has repeatedly called for a unity government.
It is unclear however if he would accept such a government with Netanyahu, who faces possible corruption charges in the weeks ahead, remaining as prime minister.
The ex-military chief, who has mounted his challenge to Netanyahu without any prior political experience, was due to speak to journalists at 1.30pm (10.30 GMT).
Netanyahu was seeking to seize momentum by announcing his intention to form a unity government and head off attempts to oust him.
Blue and White, a centrist alliance, has in the past sought to appeal to members of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud to abandon him and form a unity government with it.
But there has so far been no signal that any Likud members would be willing to do that, and in his speech following the closure of Tuesday’s polls Gantz made no such demand.
Official results have not been announced, but Israeli media have reported that Blue and White has 33 parliamentary seats and Likud 31 out of 120 with 97% of the votes counted.
Gantz’s slim lead, however, gave no obvious path for either party to form a majority coalition.
Ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has emerged as a potential kingmaker, with the reported results showing his nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party with eight seats.
Israel’s newly reunified Arab parties, running together under the Joint List alliance, have also emerged as an important force, with the reported results showing them with 13 seats – the third-largest.
That could allow them to block Netanyahu from continuing on as prime minister if they decided to break with precedent and endorse Gantz.
Israel’s Arab parties have traditionally not endorsed anyone for prime minister.
After complete, official results are in, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will hold consultations with all parties voted into parliament and then choose someone to try to form a government.
It will be the second time he has done so since April.
Netanyahu suffered one of the biggest defeats of his political career after April elections.
His Likud along with its right-wing and religious allies won a majority, but he failed to form a coalition and opted for a second election rather than risk having Rivlin choose someone else to try.