Middle East

Israel early election date set as Knesset votes on dissolution

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Lawmakers have begun the procedure to dissolve parliament, the Knesset

Israeli political parties have agreed to hold a general election on 17 March, two years ahead of schedule.

The move was announced a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked two senior coalition partners in his cabinet, centrist leaders Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni.

Mr Netanyahu accused the ministers of plotting against him.

On Wednesday, members of the national parliament, the Knesset, voted 84-0 in a preliminary reading to dissolve it.

The right-of-centre coalition, which was formed after the last general election in January 2013, is made up of Mr Netanyahu's Likud and four other parties.

'Waste of money'

Mr Lapid was serving as finance minister and is leader of the Yesh Atid party. Ms Livni was minister of justice and is leader of Hatnuah.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Yair Lapid (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu (right) have publically disagreed on a number of policies
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Livni reportedly accused the prime minister of cowardice in his sacking of her

In a televised address on Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu said it was "impossible" for him to lead the current coalition, describing Ms Livni and Mr Lapid's activities as a "putsch".

"I will not tolerate an opposition within the government any more," he said.

The coalition has been fraught with tension in recent months, with both ministers publically criticising Mr Netanyahu on a number of issues, notably on Iran, the Palestinians, and most recently a bill designed to strengthen the Jewish nature of the Israeli state.

Both ministers criticised Mr Netanyahu's decision to dismiss them and call for early elections.

Mr Lapid said the move would "waste billions". Israeli media report that the poll is expected to cost some 2bn shekels (£322m; $505m).

Ms Livni warned that without the centrist parties the government would consist of "extremist" parties that she said would destroy the country, Haaretz reported.

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