Israeli lawmakers voted on Wednesday to dissolve parliament and hold snap elections in March 2015 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke apart his coalition by firing two cabinet ministers.
Parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced that polling would take place on March 17, although the plans must still pass two more approval stages.
Netanyahu dismissed finance minister and Yesh Atid Party chief Yair Lapid along with justice minister and Hatnuah Party leader Tzipi Livni on Tuesday, after months of tension within his coalition. The prime minister had complained of government infighting and the leaking of sensitive material to the press.
"I won't tolerate any more opposition within the government, I won't tolerate ministers attacking from within the government's policies and its leader," Netanyahu said.
Israel's governing coalition had recently been divided by internal disagreements over the 2015 budget, Palestinian policies, and a proposed bill defining Israel as a "Jewish nation state," which critics said would effectively endorse discrimination against Arabs and other minorities.
Because elections were last held in January 2013, polls were not expected until November 2017. The prime minister's Likud Party, as well as other conservative factions, will now look to capitalize on gains in opinion polls amid increasingly strained and violent Israeli-Palestinian relations. Elections would see gains for Likud as well as Economy Minister Naftali Bennett's far-right Jewish Home Party, according to a number of polls, boosting conservative elements.
This would not bode well for a successful relaunching of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed earlier this year, and would potentially quicken the expansion of controversial Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Israel's High Court is set to rule on Netanyahu's recent order to level five homes in East Jerusalem belonging to the families of Palestinians who were behind terror attacks on Jewish Israelis. The attackers themselves were killed by security forces, and the Israeli human rights organization HaMoked has argued against the application of "collective punishment."
The demolitions are intended to deter such attacks, which have involved knife assaults and vehicles being driven into Jewish pedestrians. Opponents counter that revenge wreckage will only further inflame rancor between Arabs and Jews.
Also on Wednesday, Israeli police reported that a Palestinian teen injured two Israelis in a West Bank settlement knife attack before being shot in the leg by a security guard. The assailant and the two victims were described as "moderately wounded."
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