Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two key ministers Sunday ahead of general elections scheduled for September, according to an official. It will be the second time Israeli voters go to the polls this year.

An official from Netanyahu’s office confirmed on condition of anonymity that Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked had been sacked, but did not provide further details.

Both are right-wing rivals to Netanyahu who broke away from his Likud party years ago.

Their New Right party failed to win enough votes in April 9 elections to clear the threshold to join the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

It is not clear if they will run again in the polls set for September 17.

The pair issued a statement acknowledging they were being replaced and thanking the Israeli public but did not provide details.

Israeli ministers remain in their posts after elections, until the formation of the next administration.

Netanyahu failed to build a coalition after the April polls and opted instead for parliament to dissolve itself and approve new elections.

That prevented Israeli President Reuven Rivlin from selecting someone else to form a government.

Netanyahu has frequently clashed with Bennett, but it was unclear why he chose to dismiss him and Shaked now.

Both Shaked and Bennett also served in Netanyahu’s security cabinet, and the Jerusalem Post quoted sources close to the prime minister saying their service should not continue after they were rejected by voters.

The sackings could also allow Netanyahu to use the vacated ministries for pre-election bargaining.

– with reporting by AFP

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