03:17 - Source: CNN
Expert: Israel didn't want new elections

Story highlights

Lawmakers vote to dissolve the Knesset, leaving Israel in political paralysis

The bill passed with 93 votes in favor; no one voted against it

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called for the dissolution

Jerusalem CNN  — 

Israeli lawmakers voted to dissolve the nation’s parliament Monday amid mounting political upheaval.

The bill dissolving the 120-seat Knesset passed with 93 votes in favor. No one voted against it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called for the dissolution as he sacked two senior members of his coalition Cabinet for criticizing government policy. Last week the speaker of the Knesset said new elections would likely be held on March 17.

The moves come at a tenuous time in Israel, which has been beset by a number of recent terrorist attacks against citizens in Jerusalem.

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.

Netanyahu told reporters last week that a divided government was one of Israel’s problems, saying there was a lot of debate, contradictions and ultimatums.

He ordered letters of dismissal for Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, two members of his Cabinet from rival parties.

“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.”

The call for new elections means Israel is effectively in a state of political paralysis until March.

Israel held its last election just 22 months ago. A poll for Israel’s Channel 2 suggested that 55% of those surveyed were against another election being held so soon.

Monday’s vote makes the 19th Knesset one of the shortest serving parliaments in Israel’s 66-year history, according to Natan Sachs, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy in Washington.

The moves come at a tumultuous time for Israel, Sachs wrote in an opinion column for CNN.com last week.

“With the dramatic challenges Israel faces, domestically, regionally and internationally, expect the sense of malaise in Israeli politics to deepen,” he wrote. “These elections may simply be a prelude to a deeper political crisis.”

CNN’s Michael Schwartz reported from Jerusalem. CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet wrote the story in Atlanta. CNN’s Ben Wedeman and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.