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Netanyahu ‘weaker’ as Israel goes to poll in September

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going into the election on September 17 in a weaker position, analysts say.

After winning an election in April this year Netanyahu failed to form a government.

This will be for the first time in Israel’s history that two national elections will be held in a single year.

Netanyahu’s failure came as he was unable to reach a compromise between Avigdor Lieberman’s secular right-wing party, Yisrael Beiteinu, and ultra-Orthodox parties within his prospective coalition.

The main obstacle was a dispute over a conscription draft law, the same issue which ostensibly caused the dissolution of the government last December.

The quarrel about army service has continued for years between secular and religious parties. Many ultra-Orthodox seminary students avoid serving in the army, which is mandatory, as they are allowed to repeatedly defer their service.

Lieberman’s switch

Elie Jacobs, from the Truman National Security Project, said there might be a chance Netanyahu won’t continue to head his right-wing Likud party.

“There are so many questions right now that are up in the air, starting from whether Netanyahu will remain the leader of Likud in the coming weeks,” Jacobs told Al Jazeera. “He could very easily face being overthrown by his own party.”

Even in the case that the prime minister stands to run in September, he faces a potential challenge by Lieberman, his ally-turned-foe, with a possible split between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Lieberman’s secular right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport told Al Jazeera.

“Even though Lieberman has five seats in the Knesset, he represents a large community of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, around one million,” Rapoport said.

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said Lieberman turned against Netanyahu after the latter could not endorse a bill that would defend Israel from becoming, in Lieberman’s eyes, a religious state.

“Lieberman has been out this morning not mentioning Netanyahu by name, blaming Likud’s turn to ultra-Orthodoxy for the situation that it finds itself in,” Fawcett said, speaking from West Jerusalem.

“We’re really back in the same situation we were before seven weeks ago.”

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