Lawmakers in the Israeli parliament on Monday voted to dissolve the assembly and confirmed March 17 as the date for a snap general election.
At the end of a televised debate, members in the Knesset voted 93 to 0 in favor of a dissolution bill sponsored by opposition parties.
“The prime minister of Israel made two mistakes,” said former minister of finance Yair Lapid, who led his Yesh Atid party into opposition last week after being fired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“His first mistake was when he took Israel into totally unnecessary elections. The second mistake is that he will lose,” he said.
After Lapid and fellow centrist, Hatnuah party head and minister of justice Tzipi Livni were fired on Tuesday last week, a bill to dissolve parliament was passed into law on Monday evening.
The last general election was in January last year, and the next poll had not been officially due until November 2017.
Cracks in Netanyahu’s right-leaning coalition emerged over next year’s budget and a contentious bill aimed at enshrining Israel’s status as the Jewish state in law, a move critics say would institutionalize 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.
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 (US$902 million) to this year’s defense 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.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
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