Netanyahu seeks early election, fires top ministers
Updated: 2014-12-03 10:07
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pictured during a news conference at his office in Jerusalem December 2, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]
JERUSALEM - Israel's 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.
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 rightist 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 is not 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.
Netanyahu said Lapid and Livni had quietly tried to form an alternative coalition. "In one word, that is called a putsch. And that makes it impossible to run a government," he said in a televised news conference.
Livni denied his accusations and said the prime minister had been working behind the scenes to replace them.
With next year's budget not agreed and growth slowing in the wake of the July-August Gaza war, Lapid accused Netanyahu of putting his political interests before those of Israel.
"The firing of ministers is an act of cowardice and loss of control. We are sad to see that the prime minister has chosen to act without consideration for the national interest and to drag Israel to unnecessary elections," his Yesh Atid party said.