New elections will likely be held on March 17, the speaker of Israel’s parliament said Wednesday, a day after the Prime Minister sacked two senior members of his coalition Cabinet for criticizing government policy.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also called for Parliament to be dissolved, with lawmakers expected to vote on that shortly.
Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein told reporters the party heads were informing their members of the proposed election date and that there would then be an official announcement.
The upheaval was triggered when Netanyahu ordered letters of dismissal for Fianance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, two members of his Cabinet from rival parties, according to a statement from his office Tuesday.
“During the last few weeks and, in particular, the last few days, the ministers have intensely attacked the government that I am leading,” Netanyahu said. “… I will not tolerate ministers attacking the government’s policy and its head from inside the government.”
The call for new elections means Israel is effectively in a state of political paralysis until March.
Israel held its last election just 22 months ago. A poll for Israel’s Channel 2 suggested that 55% of those surveyed were against another election being held so soon.
Polls give mixed picture
Netanyahu will hope that the vote enables him to form a government he can work with, including right-wing and religious parties, but there is no guarantee that he will be able to form the coalition he wants.
Netanyahu has been Prime Minister since 2009. But he’s had to rely on members of other parties — many of them to the left of Likud on the political spectrum, such as the centrist parties of Livni and Lapid — to govern.
Netanyahu is also calculating that he can win a fourth term in office.
Opinion polls give a mixed picture, indicating that many people blame him for the current crisis but that at the same time, if elections were held today, his right-wing Likud party would increase its share of seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
However, people feel there is a range of problems that are not being dealt with, such as a faltering economy, recent attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem and this summer’s inconclusive war against Hamas militants in Gaza.