The right-wing veteran universally known as "Bibi" is the dominant political figure of his generation, and his Likud Party secured 35 seats in the 120-seat Israeli parliament in April. It seemed to have enough natural allies to form a conservative coalition, but despite all his efforts, this proved not to be.
Although Likud has so far rallied around its leader, that could change if party members scent weakness in a prime minister who could not assemble a government. Israel Katz and Gideon Saar are possible rivals to Netanyahu from within his own party.
Other prominent Blue and White members are Moshe Yaalon, a right-wing former defense minister, and center-left former finance minister Yair Lapid.
Gantz has called for pursuing peace with the Palestinians while maintaining Israeli security interests. He has signaled he would make territorial concessions toward the Palestinians, but has sidestepped the question of Palestinian statehood.
The Moldovan-born immigrant from the former Soviet Union is head of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, which holds five seats in the Knesset. He launched the political attack that weakened Netanyahu's grip on power.
He was once Netanyahu's chief of staff, but turned on his former mentor, delighting his secular base by taking a stand against Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community on the issue of compulsory service in the military.
The stated reason was that Netanyahu was not taking forceful enough military action against Hamas in Gaza, but many suspect his actions were rooted in personal ambition. While other coalition candidates talked of being "kingmakers," it was Lieberman's actions that proved decisive.
A former telecom chief, Gabbay led the center-left Labour party into a disastrous election, at which it slumped from 18 seats to six. Gabbay has publicly backed a two-state solution with the Palestinians and the party's campaign stressed social and economic reform, as well as pursuing peace.
A former chief rabbi of the Israeli military, Peretz heads the United Right party, which holds five seats in the Knesset. It is the most prominent political representative of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. It repudiates the idea of a Palestinian state and stresses Israel’s biblical and religious connections to land Palestinians seek for a state.
A former Likud member, Kahlon heads Kulanu — "All of Us" — which won four seats in April, down from 10.
As finance minister in Netanyahu's government he partly delivered on his pledge to halt soaring housing prices, but has fallen short on dramatically reducing overall living costs. His party casts itself as moderate right-wing and focused its campaign on socio-economic issues.
The deputy health minister heads United Torah Judaism, which represents ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Haredim, of European origin. It has eight seats.
Successive coalition governments have had to rely on support from ultra-Orthodox parties, which traditionally put their religious demands above larger issues like security and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
UTJ is primarily concerned with safeguarding state benefits for Haredi men who devote themselves to full-time religious study and do not serve in the conscript military or work. This pitted them against Lieberman.
The interior minister heads Shas, which represents Haredi Jews of Middle Eastern origin. It is an ally of UTJ, and both religious parties have been an almost permanent fixture in successive governments It holds eight seats, like UTJ.
The six-seat socialist party draws most of its voters from Israel’s 21 percent Arab minority. It advocates an Arab-Jewish alliance to fight discrimination, racism and social inequality in Israel. Arab parties have never joined governing coalitions in Israel.
Head of the left-wing Meretz party, which won four seats. It has not been part of a coalition government in the past two decades. Popular with liberal middle-class Israelis, the party advocates a two-state solution with the Palestinians.