Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said he will ask Israel's president today to extend his deadline for forming a new government.
President Chaim Herzog, who nominated Shamir to form a government after the November election, was virtually certain to grant extra time after a key Jewish religious party reaffirmed its support for Shamir's rightist Likud Party on Sunday.
Agudat Israel, a small ultra-Orthodox party, controls five seats in the Knesset, enough to give either party the majority.
Shamir told Israel Television on Sunday that he will put together a narrow coalition, without the participation of the rival center-left Labor Party.
"At this point, what we are talking about is a limited government," he told reporters. "We tried, we appealed to Labor, we proposed to form a broad government. They rejected our appeal."
Under Israeli law, the president must choose the party leader most likely to form a government. Shamir has a 21-day deadline, ending today, which the president may extend for up to 21 days at Shamir's request.
Labor Party leaders last week turned down an offer of a new national unity Cabinet.