Israeli PM Netanyahu gets 14 more days to form government

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. Photo: 2 March 2013 Mr Netanyahu now has until 16 March to form a new government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given two more weeks to form a new government, following January's inconclusive elections.

The extension of the initial 28-day deadline was announced after he held talks with President Shimon Peres.

Mr Netanyahu's right-wing Likud-Beitenu bloc emerged as the largest grouping in parliament, but with a much reduced number of seats in parliament.

Mr Netanyahu has been unable to make a deal with potential coalition partners.

The talks began after Israel's right-wing and centre-left blocs each secured about half of the 120-member parliament (Knesset).

Analysis

Mr Netanyahu's TV address on Saturday smacked of frustration as he described what he called "boycotts" by certain parties.

He earlier offered to work with the new centrist Yesh Atid party, which surprised observers by coming second in the elections.

But the party - headed by popular former TV presenter Yair Lapid - entered into a powerful pact with the right-wing Jewish Home.

The two parties are determined to keep a campaign pledge on a thorny issue - a universal draft law that would obligate ultra-Orthodox men to join the military or perform national service.

They are refusing to join a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties unless they accept the change.

Obama pressure

Speaking after the meeting with President Peres on Saturday, Mr Netanyahu said that some parties were boycotting others.

The centrist Yesh Atid party and the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) are refusing to enter a coalition with ultra-Orthodox parties, who oppose their efforts to end military draft exemptions for students at religious seminaries.

Coalition talks are usually difficult and protracted in Israel and these have been no exception, the BBC's Yolande Knell in Jerusalem reports.

Mr Netanyahu now has until 16 March to form a new government.

Otherwise, President Peres can ask another political leader to try to form a cabinet. If that also fails, Israel might have to hold new elections.

However, most analysts still expect Mr Netanyahu to meet his new deadline, our correspondent adds.

But she says that a visit by US President Barack Obama scheduled for later this month is adding to the pressure.

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