At Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s mostly ceremonial president, he will invite a lawmaker he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition to begin the process.
Although presidents have usually assigned that duty to the leader of the largest party, Mr. Rivlin could still assign it to another MP he thinks has a better path to a majority. It could be Yair Lapid, a centrist opposition leader whose party is projected to win between 17 and 18 seats.
“Currently Netanyahu does not have 61 seats, but the bloc has changed,” Mr Lapid said early Wednesday. He added, “I have started talking to party leaders and we will wait for the results, but we will do everything to create a healthy government in Israel.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s happiness largely depends on Mr. Bennett, once his chief of staff.
Throughout the campaign, Mr Bennett refused to clarify whether he would support a coalition led by Mr Netanyahu. But he said he would refuse service under Mr Lapid, and analysts believe he could be persuaded to support Mr Netanyahu.
Speaking to his supporters early Wednesday, Mr Bennett maintained his ambiguity, saying only that he would “wait patiently” for the final results.
If he returns to power after all, Mr Netanyahu has vowed to pass comprehensive legal reforms that would limit the power of the judiciary and that his opponents fear will allow him to bypass his corruption trial. Mr Netanyahu’s colleagues have been cheating in recent days about whether he will use his office to avoid prosecution, with one minister on Saturday refusing to rule it out.
Mr Netanyahu denies any illegality and will try to change the law to get the trial off track.
Any new government will immediately face fundamental challenges, including a pandemic-ridden economy, an increase in violent crime in Arab communities, and potential threats from Iran. Diplomatic Israel is trying to block the resurrection of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which the United States government is generally committed to and which Israel considers inadequate.