Benjamin Netanyahu has called elections for Israel, some nine months ahead of schedule.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Israel Sun/Rex Features

By Phoebe Greenwood, Tel Aviv

With his coalition at loggerheads over a new budget, the Israeli prime minister answered weeks of intense speculation on Tuesday evening when, in a televised press conference, he called for government to be dissolved in order to prepare for early elections.

Given his government has been unable to agree a national budget, Mr Netanyahu announced: “I have therefore decided, for the benefit of Israel, to hold elections now and as quickly as possible.”

The vote could is likely to be held in late January or early February next year.

Financial issues aside, the timing of these snap elections, called at the height of concerns over Iran’s nuclear intentions and the week after Mr Netanyahu drew a “red line” on the issue at the United Nations General Assembly, ensures security will dominate the campaign.

Mr Netanyahu’s announcement follows a week of crisis talks with party leaders within his coalition, including Eli Yishai, Israel’s interior minister and head of the ultra-orthodox party Shas.

It was Mr Yishai’s rejection of a broad range of budget cuts proposed by the prime minister, which he argued would hit single parent, poor, and elderly households hardest, that prompted this fatal rupture in the coalition’s stability.

Reuven Rivlin, the speaker of the Knesset, delivered a speech to the Israeli parliament on Thursday requesting that government disband. He referred to a consensus among Israel’s political parties that early elections were essential to tackle the country’s budgetary crisis.

Israel must cut its budget by $4.3 billion to stay within the fiscal limits established by Stanely Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel in August.

“We are in a global financial crisis that threatens to sweep up Israel, and without a 2013 budget, there will be disastrous consequences for the socioeconomic situation and for weaker segments of the population,” Mr Rivlin said.

According to a poll conducted by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz and published on September 28, 35 percent said they consider Mr Netanyahu the country’s most suitable leader.

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