Israeli leader orders ministers out, sets stage for new elections

Israel PM to call for dissolution of parliament
Israel PM to call for dissolution of parliament

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Story highlights

  • Netanyahu lays out his gripes with ministers: "It's impossible to govern like this"
  • An outgoing minister accuses Netanyahu of using threats "for political means"
  • Prime Minister orders ouster of Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
  • He will also call to dissolve the Knesset, paving the way for new elections
Israel will soon have new elections, after its Prime Minister called for the dismissal of two critical members of his coalition Cabinet and announced he'd call for the dissolution of the nation's legislature, his office announced Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered letters of dismissal for Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, two members of his Cabinet from rival parties, according to a statement from his office.
"During the last few weeks and, in particular, the last few days, the ministers have intensely attacked the government that I am leading," Netanyahu said. "... I will not tolerate ministers attacking the government's policy and its head from inside the government."
Bad timing?
The moves come at a tenuous time in Israel, which has been beset by a number of recent terrorist attacks against citizens in Jerusalem.
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Israel's controversial proposition
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The head of the right-wing Likud party, Netanyahu has been Israel's Prime Minister since 2009. But he's had to rely on members of other parties -- many of them to the left of Likud on the political spectrum -- to govern.
His Likud party, for instance, won more seats than any other party in the January 2013 election, but still fell well short of the 60 needed to have a majority in the Knesset.
He ended up bringing on other parties into his government. The first to join was "The Movement," a centrist party led by Livni, a former opposition leader and foreign minister. Yapid -- a charismatic journalist-turned-politician -- became another key player, after his centrist Yesh Atid party finished a surprising second in that national election.
'Debate, contradictions, ultimatums'
Netanyahu told reporters Tuesday a divided government was one of Israel's problems, saying there was a lot of debate, contradictions and ultimatums.
He called out Livni for meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against his recommendation and for criticizing building in Jerusalem, which some say has exacerbated tensions with Arabs there.
And Netanyahu lambasted Lapid for calling Israel's boycott of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's U.N. speech a mistake and challenging his push to label Israel a Jewish state, which some fear will alienate the country's significant Arab population. He also accused the ministers of being behind talks "to kick out the prime minister."
"In one word, they call this a putsch," Netanyahu said. "You cannot have a government like this. It's impossible to govern like this."
In a Facebook post Tuesday, Livni said, "The question in the election will not be who was the first to identify the threats and use them for political means, but who will deal with the threats in a responsible, level headed manner for the good of the country."
Political party reacts
Yesh Atid also fired back in a statement, in which it said Lapid told Netanyahu by phone that he expected the Prime Minister "to act responsibly and to stop dragging the (Israeli military) and our soldiers into an election for your political needs."
Yesh Atid claimed that "unnecessary elections ... will harm the economy and Israeli society, all for narrow political interests and a surrender to the ultra-orthodox parties, the powerful central committee of the Likud and outside lobby groups."
"Prime Minister Netanyahu has failed in his management of the country and in dealing with the needs of the Israeli public," the Yesh Atid party said. "The firing of ministers is an act of cowardice and loss of control."