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Netanyahu fires two key ministers ahead of second Israeli elections this year

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked are sacked by prime minister
Shaked, left, and Bennett when they formed New Right Party last year (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two prominent ministers on Sunday ahead of general elections set for September, the second time the country will go to the polls this year, an official said.

An official from Netanyahu's office confirmed on condition of anonymity that Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked had been fired, without providing further details, AFP reported.

Both are right-wing rivals to Netanyahu and had broken off from his Likud party years earlier. Their New Right party failed to win enough votes in 9 April elections to clear the threshold to join parliament.

As soon as the firing of the two ministers goes into effect, 48 hours after the announcement, Netanyahu will assume the roles of acting justice minister and education minister, Haaretz said. He is free to appoint other parliament members in their place, which has not been ruled out.

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

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

The pair issued a statement saying they were being replaced and thanked the Israeli public, but they did not provide details.

Ministers remain in their posts immediately after Israeli 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 as saying their service should not continue after they were rejected by voters.