Israel to dissolve parliament, hold snap elections

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  AFP

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AFP

Israel will hold an early general election in April, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, after members of his governing coalition met to discuss differences over legislation.

Mr Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009, said the decision was a "unanimous" one and the poll will be held in April.

Israeli law required a national election to be held in November 2019.

The latest opinion polls forecast another solid victory for Mr Netanyahu, although corruption claims could put paid to that.

Despite Benjamin Netanyahu's recent legal and political troubles, polls have indicated he would remain prime minister after new elections.

The likelihood of an early election increased in November after Netanyahu's defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, quit the government, leaving the ruling coalition with its one-seat majority.

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But a new bill extending the military draft to Jewish ultra-Orthodox men appeared to be the final trigger for the government's downfall.

Mr Netanyahu's ultra-Orthodox partners have demanded the legislation be watered down, but the PM only has a wafer-thin parliamentary majority.

The decision comes with the coalition struggling to agree on a key bill related to ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the military like their secular counterparts.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have been tense this year over multiple issues including a controversial law passed by the Israeli parliament in July which defined the country as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Environment and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin agreed that the coalition "could not continue to function" after the opposition's Yesh Atid announced it would not support the draft bill.

He said the coalition's potential compromise was a bad deal and his party "will not give a hand to draft dodging".

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But the potential for criminal charges over a slew of corruption allegations could finish the Israeli PM's political career.

The country's attorney general is now deciding whether to press charges. "The people of Israel have re-elected me for a fourth time,"' Hazan explained, adding that if Netanyahu is re-elected, it would send a message to the attorney general that "you can not overturn the results of a democratic election". "Let's not forget this is a government that no one thought would serve out its term", he said.

The White House still has not released a long-awaited peace plan, and today's announcement could further delay its release.

Since then, elections have nearly always been moved up because of a coalition crisis or as a strategic move by the prime minister to maximise his chance of re-election.

That left Netanyahu with a fragile majority of just 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament. But following the military campaign to uncover the Hezbollah tunnel network from Lebanon into Israel, he said the country was now in a different place.

"If we all act properly, on April 10 we will part with Netanyahu", he said on Hahadashot TV. "It was right not to go to elections then and I think it is perfectly sensible to go elections now".

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