Israel’s PM Netanyahu Fires Two Ministers, Seeks Early Elections

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a press conference in Jerusalem, in which he called for early elections, 2 December 2014. Photo EPA/BGNES

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he wants early elections as soon as possible after dismissing two rebellious cabinet ministers. 

A statement from Netanyahu's office said: "The prime minister plans to call for parliament's dissolution as soon as possible and to go to the people and get a clear mandate to lead Israel."

Disagreements over economic and political issues have strained relations within Israel's right-of-centre 18-month-old government coalition.

Netanyahu said at a news conference on Tuesday that he has sacked Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who head separate centrist parties, accusing them of preparing a "putsch" against him and "acting against the government from within".

Rifts in the coalition emerged over the 2015 budget,  including a planned increase in defence spending, and a contentious bill declaring Israel a nation-state of the Jewish people, which both Lapid and Livni had opposed. According to critics, enshrining Israel's status as the Jewish state in law, could harm the rights of the country's Arab and other minority populations but Netanyahu insists it would guarantee equal rights for citizens and the ability of all residents "regardless of religion, race or nationality" to preserve their culture and heritage.

"Netanyahu's move suggests he is calculating he can win a fourth term in office, and opinion polls suggest Israel's next government will be even more conservative than the current coalition," the Financial Times commented in its coverage of the news.

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