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Israel Sets Date For Early Elections After Governing Coalition Collapses

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was "impossible to manage the country" following a showdown with Finance Minister Yair Lapid over the controversial "Jewish State" bill. on Wednesday, elections were set for March 17, two years ahead of schedule.

Posted on December 2, 2014, at 2:31 a.m. ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid attend a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Oct. 7.
Pool / Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid attend a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Oct. 7.

Updated – Wednesday, Dec. 3. at 6:35 a.m. ET.

JERUSALEM — Less than two years after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed his new government, Israel will head back to the polls on March 17. That's about two years earlier than scheduled.

Netanyahu said Monday that it is "impossible to manage the country" with the current coalition, claiming that his own ministers were undermining him. The final break came after a fiery showdown between Netanyahu and Yair Lapid, Israel's finance minister and head of the centrist Yesh Atid party.

He has fired several top government ministers, according to reports. On Wednesday, lawmakers are expected to vote to dissolve the Knesset.

Netanyahu was seeking to gain Lapid's support for a number of contentious bills, chief among them a bill to declare Israel a "Jewish State." While Israel's Declaration of Independence already describes Israel as a Jewish State, the new bill is being touted by Netanyahu as necessary to establishing Israel's national identity.

Critics say it is an unnecessary bill that will infuriate the country's Palestinian citizens and fuel anti-democratic legislation.

Israeli newspapers all predicted a government collapse in the coming weeks, with two of the largest papers, Yediot Ahronot and Maariv, announcing that elections could be held as early as March 2015. Four Israeli opposition parties have submitted bills to dissolve the parliament that will face a preliminary vote on Wednesday. The bills need to go through three votes before the parliament is dissolved and new elections announced.

Netanyahu could also dissolve the parliament himself by announcing that he cannot form a new government coalition.

A new poll published Sunday in the Haaretz newspaper showed that while Netanyahu's popularity is currently down, Israelis continue to support him over other prime ministerial candidates.

Asked which politician is most suited to be prime minister, 35% answered Netanyahu, with eight other Israeli leaders dividing the rest of the votes among them. The same poll showed shrinking support for Lapid's centrist party and for the centrist-left-wing parties Hatnuah and Labor.

The only parties to show gains are the right-wing Jewish Home and Israel Beiteinu Parties led by Cabinet Ministers Naftali Bennet and Avigdor Lieberman respectively.

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