Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister of Israel and head of the centrist Kadima Party, officially asked President Shimon Peres to declare early elections on Sunday.
Peres had tasked Livni with forming a new government last month, after she won a primary to lead the centrist Kadima party.
Now, following the breakdown of talks with potential coalition partners, Peres can either ask another Knesset member to try to compile a majority coalition, or announce general elections.
Analysts agreed that the latter is more likely, and Livni urged Peres to call elections as quickly as possible.
"This is the hour in which the Israeli parliament and the political establishment are obligated to do some deep soul-searching," Peres said in his speech to open the current session of the Knesset. "In the coming days, Israel will enter an election period.... The upcoming elections are an opportunity to raise the foundation of Israel and to alleviate its various weaknesses."