Israel Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference following the dissolving of the Knesset,and ahead of the new elections, in Tel Aviv, on May 30, 2019. Photo by Flash90

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Avigdor Liberman, who prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government coalition in April, appears to have forsaken the right-wing camp to which his hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu party has traditionally belonged.

Yisrael Beiteinu and Blue and White, a center-left party and the main rival of Netanyahu’s Likud, have signed an agreement to share their surplus votes in the Sept. 17 elections. Under a surplus vote-sharing agreement, two parties can pool their extra votes that do not add up to a Knesset seat in order to gain an additional seat. The seat usually goes to the party with more surplus votes.

Liberman said the deal was strictly technical.

Why it matters:  Liberman has said his goal is to bring together Likud and Blue and White to form a unity government. But with Netanyahu discounting the idea and insisting he will form a right-wing government, it appears more likely that Liberman will attempt to help Blue and White form a unity government, leaving Netanyahu out in the cold. Likud and Blue and White are neck and neck in recent polls; they each won 35 Knesset seats in April, but Netanyahu was tasked with forming a government.

Liberman refused to bring his party and its five seats into Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, preventing him from achieving a majority and ultimately sending the country to new elections for the second time in five months.

The sticking point was a draft law obligating haredi Orthodox men to participate in Israel’s mandatory military draft. Liberman insisted he would not join the government unless the law was passed in its current form.

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