Jerusalem: Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a motion to dissolve the parliament in a preliminary vote, paving way for snap polls in next March, a day after the collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fragile coalition.
The 120-member Israeli Parliament, which passed 84-0 with one legislator abstaining, was an initial step. Further votes are expected next week that will officially disband the parliament.
Israel's next round of general elections will be held on March 17, it was announced by Knesset (Israeli parliament) Speaker Yuli Edelstein. He made the announcement on the date of the polls following consultation with leaders of all the political parties.
The bill's passage would mark the official end of the third Netanyahu government, which lasted slightly more than a year and a half. The Knesset members are elected to four-year terms.
"The coming elections are about one question - who will lead the government amid the massive challenges facing Israel?," Netanyahu told a meeting of his Likud party.
"The Likud is the only party that should be considered... that is the main lesson from recent years and that is this elections' challenge" he said.
The Israeli Premier announced the elections in an address to the nation yesterday, shortly after he fired Finance Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid party and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua in a surprise move that has come under severe criticism from political analysts.
Lapid and Livni have been fiercely critical of the Netanyahu government's policies, a fact that did not go unmentioned in the Prime Minister's speech, in which he lambasted both ministers for what he termed relentless attacks that paralysed the government.
"In recent weeks, including the last 24 hours, ministers Lapid and Livni harshly attacked the government under my leadership. I won't tolerate any more opposition within the government, I won't tolerate ministers attacking from within the government the government's policies and its leader," Netanyahu said.