Netanyahu gets 2 more weeks to form Israel coalition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks with President Shimon Peres during a reception marking the opening of the 19th Knesset (Israeli parliament) on February 5, 2013 in Jerusalem.

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a two-week extension to form a new coalition government, after he failed to do so in an initial four-week period.

"I am giving you another two weeks, by law, to complete the task of forming the government," Peres told Netanyahu during a televised statement at the presidential residence.

After his Likud-Beitenu list emerged as the largest party in the January election, winning 31 of the Knesset's 120 seats, Netanyahu was on Feb. 2 tasked with forming a coalition.

Peres gave him the initial 28 days mandated by law for the task.

If the additional fortnight passes without Netanyahu managing to form a coalition government, Peres will then have to ask a different member of parliament to try to form a government.

The premier was reportedly leaning towards forging a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties as well as with Yesh Atid, which came second in the Jan. 22 vote, and with the far-right Jewish Home, which came fourth.

Netanyahu had so far managed to strike a deal only with the six-member centrist party HaTnuah to join his nascent coalition.

The PM said during a televised address that Jewish Home and Yesh Atid refused to join the coalition with the ultra-Orthodox elements, The Associated Press reported.

The AP said the ultra-Orthodox parties oppose ending mandatory military service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox seminary students.

Netanyahu called the impasse as a "boycott," the Jerusalem Post said.

He called on parties to "unite rather than divide."

GlobalPost writer David Trifunov contributed to this report.