Israeli Legislators Set Date for Snap Election After Ministers' Sacking

Netanyahu
srael's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at his office in Jerusalem December 2, 2014. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sacked his finance and justice ministers on Tuesday, signalling the break up of his bickering coalition and opening the way for early national elections in Israel. Gali Tibbon/Pool/Reuters

Israeli legislators agreed on Wednesday to set March 17 as the date for a new parliamentary election, Israel Radio said.

The report said the date was agreed in a meeting of the heads of parliamentary factions.

Parliament was due to hold a preliminary vote later in the day on dissolving itself, after right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday fired two centrist cabinet members and declared an early election.

Netanyahu's government, which only took office last year, has been unraveling over an array of issues, including the 2015 budget and a Jewish nation-state bill that critics say discriminates against Arab citizens.

Two television polls on Tuesday said Netanyahu's Likud party would emerge once again as the largest group in parliament if elections were held today, almost certainly ensuring him a fourth term as prime minister.

The next national ballot had not been scheduled until 2017, but Netanyahu announced that he wanted to dissolve parliament "as soon as possible" and hold an early election.

He also ordered the dismissals of Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the heads of two separate centrist parties who have been chaffing against the right-wingers that predominate in the cabinet.