Israeli president asks Netanyahu to form new government
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows characteristic defiance after the attorney general announces he intends to charge him with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, blaming a "witch hunt" by his political opponents AFP / Gali TIBBON

The office of Israel's president says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given the difficult task of forming a new government.

Wednesday's decision came after President Reuven Rivlin's attempts to broker a unity government between Netanyahu and his chief rival, Benny Gantz, failed.

Rivlin and Netanyahu were to give statements later Wednesday.

Netanyahu faces an uphill struggle. After a tight election, his Likud party, along with smaller allied parties, controls 55 seats, short of the required 61-seat majority in parliament.

His former ally, the Yisrael Beitenu party, refuses to sit in a government with Netanyahu's ultra-religious partners. And dovish opposition parties are unlikely to back Netanyahu.

He now has up to six weeks to form a coalition. If he fails, Gantz will likely be given a chance.