The political deadlock in Israel showed no signs of abating Thursday, as the country's leaders warned of the possibility of a third election, with neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor Benny Gantz appearing to have a clear path to forming a coalition.

Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, declared victory, arguing his party was on track to becoming the largest in the Knesset.

"We have 33 seats and Netanyahu could not get his bloc," said Gantz in Tel Aviv, speaking before a faction meeting of his party. "Therefore, Blue and White, headed by me, won the election."

But his likely center-left coalition partners, combined with the Arab Joint List, still fall short of the 61 seats needed to govern, setting up the possibility that -- once again -- Gantz declared victory too early.

In April's election, shortly after the first exit poll was released, Gantz stepped on stage and announced he had won, only to find out that his declaration was premature. The exit poll was completely wrong.

Echoing his calls from the campaign trail, Gantz called for a unity government, saying he wished to bring his Blue and White together with Likud, but without Netanyahu, as ongoing criminal corruption probes hang over the long-time Israeli leader -- allegations he denies.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu, although not declaring victory outright, said he would be the leader of a unity government, inviting Gantz to meet with him to begin discussions.

"Now, I am calling on you, member of Knesset Benny Gantz: Benny, it's upon us to form a wide unity government even today. The country expects of us, from the two of us, that we assume responsibility and that we will work together," Netanyahu said in a video statement earlier Thursday.

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