Monday, December 8, 2014 11:32 pm
At the end of a televised debate, members in the Knesset voted 93-0 in favour of a dissolution bill sponsored by opposition parties.
“The prime minister of Israel made two mistakes,” said former finance minister Yair Lapid, who led his Yesh Atid party into opposition last week after being fired by premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
“His first mistake was when he took Israel into totally unneccessary elections,” Lapid said from the Knesset podium. “The second mistake is that he will lose.”
After Lapid and fellow centrist, HaTnuah party head and justice minister Tzipi Livni were fired last Tuesday a bill to dissolve parliament was passed into law on Monday evening.
The last general election was in January 2013, and the next poll had not been officially due until November 2017.
Cracks in Netanyahu’s right-leaning coalition emerged over the 2015 budget and a contentious bill aimed at enshrining Israel’s status as the Jewish state in law, a move critics say would institutionalise discrimination against minorities including Arabs.
According to the latest polls, Netanyahu’s Likud is expected to win 22 to 24 seats in parliament, compared with the 18 it now holds.
Observers say another right-wing government would reduce the chances of resuming the Middle East peace process, after the last round of US-backed negotiations collapsed in April, notably over the issue of Israel’s settlement building on Palestinian territory.
Hardline ministers in Netanyahu’s coalition have pushed to step up the construction of Jewish settler homes in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, drawing international condemnation and angering Palestinians who want that land for their future state.
– Parliament’s last minute rush –
In the final hours of the parliament’s life, ahead of the vote to disperse, its finance committee voted an extra 3.6 billion shekels ($902 million, 736 million euros) to the 2014 defence budget to make up for expenditure during the 50-day summer war in the Gaza Strip.
A plan to spend 120 million shekels on infrastructure for existing West Bank settlements was shelved when it failed to garner sufficient support among the committee members, public radio said.
The Knesset passed into law a bill aimed at curbing illegal immigration after judges quashed two earlier laws as repressive.