Israeli lawmakers vote to dissolve Knesset

If the upcoming parliamentary votes pass as expected, the current legislature will have served for one of the shortest periods in the country's history.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, sits during a vote at the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Israeli lawmakers voted Wednesday to dissolve the Knesset, a preliminary step that will pave the way for early elections two years ahead of schedule.

Israeli lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a motion on Wednesday to dissolve the Knesset in a preliminary vote, paving the way for early elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to iron out differences with coalition partners.

Israel's government, which took office in early 2013, has been riven by divisions from the beginning over major issues facing the country. On Tuesday, Netanyahu fired two rebellious Cabinet ministers and called for elections, plunging the country into a bitter campaign set to culminate in polls early next year.

Wednesday's vote in the 120-member Knesset, which passed 84-0 with one legislator abstaining, was an initial step. Further votes are expected next week that will officially disband the parliament and usher in new polls.

If the upcoming parliamentary votes pass as expected, the current legislature will have served for one of the shortest periods in the country's history.

The elections are expected to be held on March 17 — two years ahead of schedule — and early polls show Netanyahu's Likud party leading with about 22 seats.

"The coming elections are about one question, who will lead the government amid the huge challenges that Israel faces?" Netanyahu told a Likud party meeting. "The Likud is the only party that should be considered."

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said his center-left Labor party would "do everything to bring change and hope to Israel." Labor, a traditional force in Israeli politics that has lost support in recent years, is poised to pull in 13 seats, according to the early polls.

The polls were conducted separately for Israeli Channel 2 and Channel 10 on Tuesday. The Channel 10 poll surveyed 545 people and had a margin of error of 4.3 percent. The Channel 2 poll asked 500 people and had an approximate margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Netanyahu's fractious center-right Cabinet has been bickering for weeks over the budget, a housing tax break and a bill that would enshrine into law Israel's status as a Jewish state. Rising violence between Palestinians and Israelis has also been an issue, as have the government's Jewish settlement policies in the West Bank.

The friction came to a head on Tuesday with the dismissal of Netanyahu's finance minister, Yair Lapid, a major coalition partner, and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. Netanyahu accused the two of leveling unwarranted criticism at him and of orchestrating a "putsch."

The coalition includes Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid, which rose to power with promises of economic relief for Israel's middle class; Livni's Hatnuah, which is focused on reaching peace with the Palestinians; Jewish Home, a hard-line party linked to the West Bank settler movement; and Yisrael Beitenu, a nationalist party that seeks to redraw Israel's borders to rid the country of many Arab citizens.

Netanyahu's own Likud party is divided between more-centrist old timers and a young guard of hard-line ideologues.

The elections would come at a time of growing violence between Palestinians and Israelis and deepening despair over the prospects for peace. Israelis are also concerned about a rising cost of living and a sagging economy.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.