JERUSALEM: Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to dissolve parliament and hold snap elections on April 9.
Legislators backed the move 102 for and two against after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition agreed Monday on early polls.
The premier’s coalition was left with a one-seat majority after defense minister Avigdor Lieberman stepped down in November over a controversial Gaza cease-fire deal.
Party leaders have failed to agree on a key bill regulating drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews to the army, and that was the immediate reason to move toward elections.
Analysts, however, say that Netanyahu wanted the polls before Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announces his decision on whether to indict the premier in three different corruption cases.
While no official timeframe has been given, reports say such an announcement could come in mid-April.
With politicians now entering campaign mode, Netanyahu met in Jerusalem on Wednesday with leaders of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and made his pitch for why they should stick with him.
Netanyahu’s current coalition is seen as the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
“We’ll see an attempt by the left-wing to overthrow our rule with the help of the media and others,” he said.
“They can’t succeed, because if they do — that will pose a clear danger to the settlement movement.”
Calling on their support in the elections, Netanyahu told the settler leaders they should not take the fate of their enterprise for granted.
“We had to work hard, with the current American administration as well, for the great achievements we brought the settlements,” he said in remarks relayed by his office.
While Netanyahu portrays himself as the champion of the settlements, settler leaders say he has not done enough, with three prominent heads of West Bank settlements boycotting the Wednesday meeting in protest.
Key members of his coalition are however strong settlement backers and oppose a Palestinian state.