JERUSALEM — Less than two years after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed his new government, Israel will head back to the polls on March 17. That's about two years earlier than scheduled.
Netanyahu said Monday that it is "impossible to manage the country" with the current coalition, claiming that his own ministers were undermining him. The final break came after a fiery showdown between Netanyahu and Yair Lapid, Israel's finance minister and head of the centrist Yesh Atid party.
He has fired several top government ministers, according to reports. On Wednesday, lawmakers are expected to vote to dissolve the Knesset.
Netanyahu was seeking to gain Lapid's support for a number of contentious bills, chief among them a bill to declare Israel a "Jewish State." While Israel's Declaration of Independence already describes Israel as a Jewish State, the new bill is being touted by Netanyahu as necessary to establishing Israel's national identity.
Critics say it is an unnecessary bill that will infuriate the country's Palestinian citizens and fuel anti-democratic legislation.
Israeli newspapers all predicted a government collapse in the coming weeks, with two of the largest papers, Yediot Ahronot and Maariv, announcing that elections could be held as early as March 2015. Four Israeli opposition parties have submitted bills to dissolve the parliament that will face a preliminary vote on Wednesday. The bills need to go through three votes before the parliament is dissolved and new elections announced.
Netanyahu could also dissolve the parliament himself by announcing that he cannot form a new government coalition.
A new poll published Sunday in the Haaretz newspaper showed that while Netanyahu's popularity is currently down, Israelis continue to support him over other prime ministerial candidates.
Asked which politician is most suited to be prime minister, 35% answered Netanyahu, with eight other Israeli leaders dividing the rest of the votes among them. The same poll showed shrinking support for Lapid's centrist party and for the centrist-left-wing parties Hatnuah and Labor.
The only parties to show gains are the right-wing Jewish Home and Israel Beiteinu Parties led by Cabinet Ministers Naftali Bennet and Avigdor Lieberman respectively.
Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F
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