Israel is unlike the United States where the nominee who wins the general election automatically becomes the next head of state. In Israel regardless of which party receives more seats after the general election, it is up to the President to decide which man and party are more suitable to form a coalition.

Neither PM  Netanyahu Netanyahu nor his challenger Benny Gantz won the required support of a parliamentary majority in last week’s election.

President Rivlin this week mediated a meeting between the two men in hopes of forging a unity deal between them. However, after the unity talks failed, Rivlin gave Netanyahu the difficult task of cobbling together a coalition. Israeli media previously speculated that Netanyahu would be given the first opportunity, a prediction that turned out to be correct.

According to final official results announced Wednesday, Blue and White finished first with 33 seats in the 120-seat parliament, just ahead of Likud’s 32 seats. Even with the support of smaller allies, both parties are short of the required 61-seat majority.

Netanyahu faces an uphill struggle putting together a coalition. Netanyahu’s opponents previously said they will not join him, and the secular Lieberman says he will not be part of a government that includes Netanyahu’s religious allies.

Under Israeli law, the president’s first choice is given up to six weeks to form a coalition. If he fails, he can choose an alternative candidate to try. After that, a majority of parliament could offer a third name to be prime minister. And if that fails, Israel would be forced into holding its third election in less than a year.