Knesset approves first reading bill to dissolve itself

Knesset approves first reading bill to dissolve itself

Israel edged closer to snap polls as a bill to dissolve parliament passed its first reading this morning, despite a general election last month.

Pitched into chaos by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's failure to form a governing coalition after the April polls, the Knesset voted 66 to 44 in favour of a new election, tentatively scheduled for September 17, the parliament's website said.

Later on Tuesday a committee was to meet to prepare the bill for its second and third readings, which if passed would make the bill law.

No timetable was published for the two final votes on the legislation, which had passed an initial reading Monday night.

Netanyahu's Likud party submitted the bill to dissolve parliament Monday as a Wednesday night deadline to form a viable coalition loomed with negotiations deadlocked.

Ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has blocked a deal by refusing to budge from a key demand - and he showed no sign of backing down on Monday.

If a deal is not reached by Wednesday night's deadline, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin could give Netanyahu another two weeks if he concludes the premier is the only person capable of forming a government.

Alternatively, Rivlin could ask another member of parliament to take on the task.

Netanyahu is widely seen as preferring new elections rather than leaving the choice up to Rivlin, due to the possibility someone else could be selected. Netanyahu could also seek to form a minority government.

In a televised address following the initial vote in parliament, Netanyahu pledged to continue pursuing coalition talks and said a new vote would be unnecessary and costly. “A lot can be done in 48 hours. he voters’ wishes can be respected, a strong right-wing government can be formed," Reuters cited him as saying.