Israel's president has nominated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to form a government following the latest inconclusive election.

However, President Reuven Rivlin has voiced doubt that any candidate can forge a majority coalition.

"I have come to a decision based on the numbers of recommendations (from politicians), which indicates that Benjamin Netanyahu has a slightly higher chance of forming a government," Mr Rivlin said.

In Mr Rivlin's consultations with party leaders following the 23 March vote, Mr Netanyahu was backed by 52 MPs 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," Mr 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."

Mr Rivlin referred directly to the misgivings of many Israelis about having Mr Netanyahu try to form a government as he stands trial on corruption charges.

He said: "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."

Addressing his newly sworn-in Likud allies, Mr Netanyahu pledged to make "every effort to get Israel out of this cycle of elections", declaring he would form a "strong government" that served all citizens. 

Mr 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.

But as Mr Rivlin was holding his talks yesterday, Mr Netanyahu was on trial across the city at Jerusalem District Court.

He is charged with accepting improper gifts and illegally trading regulatory favours with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.

Mr Rivlin, whose antipathy for Mr Netanyahu is well known, said giving the mandate to the veteran leader was "not an easy decision on a moral and ethical basis".

"I know the position held by many, that the president should not give the role to a candidate facing criminal charges," he said. 

"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." 

Mr Lapid reacted to the announcement by conceding that "the president fulfilled his duty and had no choice".

"But assigning the mandate to Netanyahu is a shameful disgrace that tarnishes Israel and shames our status as a law-abiding state," he added.