Israeli PM Netanyahu given 14-day extension to form government

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given 14 more days to form a new government, following January's inconclusive polls.

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

    The elections saw Netanyahu's right-wing Likud-Beitenu bloc emerge as the largest grouping with 31 of the Knesset's 120 seats but with a much lower number of seats.

    So far, Netanyahu has managed to partner only with former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and her six-member "The Movement" faction, which has given him 37 seats. A minimum of 61 seats is needed to confirm a new coalition.

    Netanyahu had earlier offered to work with the new centrist Yesh Atid party, which came in second.

    However, the party, led by former TV presenter Yair Lapid, forged an alliance with the right wing Jewish Home.

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

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

    Talks between Netanyahu and Peres began after Israel's right wing and center-left blocs each secured 60 seats.

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

    Analysts expect Netanyahu will meet his new deadline though a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama scheduled for later this month has added to the pressure.