The story

Israel's two largest parties each claimed a mandate early Wednesday after exit polls showed a surprise first-place finish by the ruling Kadima party and dramatic gains by its conservative rivals.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's failure to assemble a ruling coalition for Kadima last year triggered Tuesday's elections. But she told supporters after the vote that the narrow edge Kadima appears to have held over the conservative Likud shows her party is "the common denominator of Israeli society."

Livni called on Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu "to respect the choice of Israel's citizens ... and to join a unity government, led by us, that will be based on the large parties in Israel, left and right." Read full article »

CNN's Michal Zippori, Paula Hancocks and Bill Schneider contributed to this report.

All About IsraelTzipi LivniBenjamin NetanyahuIsraeli Politics