Israeli government falls, early elections called for April
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government agreed Monday to hold early elections in April after the ruling coalition appeared to come up short on votes needed to pass a contentious piece of court-ordered legislation.
Netanyahu said his coalition “unanimously” agreed to disband the government and hold a new election.
At a meeting of his Likud faction, he listed his accomplishments in office and said he hoped his current religious, nationalistic coalition would be the “core” of the next one as well.
“We will ask the voters for a clear mandate to continue leading the state of Israel our way,” he said to applause from party members.
The Knesset, or parliament, is expected to hold a vote on Wednesday to formally dissolve, setting the stage for a three-month election campaign and a likely vote on April 9.
The latest polls appear to predict another solid victory for Netanyahu, though an indictment over mounting corruption charges could still trip him up.
Netanyahu’s coalition has been roiled by internal divisions for months.
Avigdor Lieberman resigned as defense minister last month to protest what he perceived to be the government’s weak response to rocket attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza.
But a new law extending the military draft to ultra-Orthodox men appears to have triggered the government’s downfall.
Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox partners are demanding the legislation be weakened and his razor-thin parliamentary majority seems to be making such a compromise impossible.