(Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem March 3, 2013. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon)

A surprise alliance between far-right and centrist Israeli political stars who reject privileges for ultra-orthodox Jews is frustrating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new government.

More than a month after Israel’s election, Netanyahu is still without a new coalition, his hopes of enlisting traditionally loyal ultra-Orthodox cabinet partners challenged by a pact between newcomers Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett.

Lapid, a former TV anchor who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party, and Bennett, millionaire leader of the far-right Jewish Home, surged into second and fourth place in Israel’s 22 January election, boosted in part by their opposition to blanket military draft exemptions enjoyed by the ultra-Orthodox.

Their two parties control a kingmaking 31 of parliament’s 120 seats, as many as Netanyahu’s rightist Likud-Beitenu list, which won the election but with a weaker-than-forecast showing that left him off-balance as he strives for a third term.