Israel's president nominated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday to try to form a government following the latest inconclusive election, but voiced doubt that any candidate can forge a majority coalition.
"I have come to a decision based on the numbers of recommendations (from lawmakers), which indicates that Benjamin Netanyahu has a slightly higher chance of forming a government," President Reuven Rivlin said.
In Rivlin's consultations with party leaders following the March 23 vote, Netanyahu was backed by 52 lawmakers elected to Israel's 120-seat parliament, the Knesset.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid earned 45 endorsements. There were 16 abstentions and right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett secured seven votes from his own Yamina party.
"The results of the consultations, that were open to all, lead me to believe that no candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset," Rivlin said.
"In fact, if the law would allow me to do so, I would give the decision back to the representatives of the people."
Rivlin referred directly to the misgivings of many Israelis about having Netanyahu try to form a government as he stands trial on corruption charges.
"I know the position held by many, that the president should not give the role to a candidate that is facing criminal charges, but according to the law and the decision of the courts, a prime minister can continue in his role even when he is facing charges."
Netanyahu, Israel's longest serving premier with a record 12 consecutive years in office, will have at least 28 days to negotiate a coalition agreement, a daunting task in Israel's deeply divided legislature.