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Netanyahu wants early elections

December 2, 2014

Benjamin Netanyahu will seek early elections after strains in his Cabinet have prompted him to fire two key ministers. Dismissal letters are being sent to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid.

Israel Knesset Oktober 2014
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/Kobi Gideon

Netanyahu announced the news Tuesday after failing to convince Finance Minister Lapid to halt a housing reform and back a controversial bill defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, the Jerusalem Post reported. Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni have both opposed recent proposals from Netanyahu on the budget and on defining Israel as a Jewish state. The next elections, previously not scheduled until 2017 at the earliest, could come as soon as mid-March.

"The prime minister will soon call for the dissolution of parliament in order to go to the people and seek a clear mandate to govern Israel," a posting on Netanyahu's official Twitter account read on Tuesday.

The 19 Knesset seats held by Lapid's Yesh Atid party make it the largest partner in the prime minister's fragile ruling coalition. In 2013, Lapid had campaigned on such topics as supporting universal enlistment in the military and changing the system of government, as well as criticizing Israel's high cost of living, falling educational standards and political corruption. Lapid has also said he believes that Netanyahu has veered too far to the right by pushing Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and failing to advance the peace process with the Palestinians.

"The prime minister is leading us to unnecessary elections," Lapid told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Yair Lapid
Lapid and other relative moderates have found Netanyahu's government increasingly less welcomingImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Sultan

Former Prime Minister Livni's Movement has six seats and made peace with Palestinians a central 2013 campaign issue - the only party to do so. She has also resisted the bill to define Israel as a Jewish nation.

'Not tolerate opposition'

The dismissals come as Israel faces criticism for its 50-day war in Gaza during the summer, which killed more than 2,000 people, the vast majority of them civilians, as well as expanding settlements on land inhabited by Palestinians. The legislatures of several countries have recently voted to recognize Palestine as an independent state after Israel has repeatedly put an end to US-brokered peace negotiations.

"I will not tolerate opposition in my government any more," Netanyahu said in a statement. "I won't accept ministers attacking the policy and head of the government from within," he added.

Lawmakers could hold a preliminary vote to dissolve the country's parliament on Wednesday. Some predict that, should the embattled Netanyahu emerge victorious, he could try to form his next government with far-right parties that emphasize expanding settlements and religious-identity laws.

mkg/mg (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)