Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two of his senior ministers Tuesday and announced plans to work toward holding new elections.
In a statement issued after he fired Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, both political centrists, Netanyahu said, "In the last couple of weeks and over the last day, Lapid and Livni have forcefully attacked the government."
“I will no longer tolerate an opposition within the government. I will not tolerate ministers who ... from within the government attack government policies and the person who leads the government,” Netanyahu added, according to the Times of Israel. Netanyahu said he would work toward dissolving the current Knesset as soon as possible which would lead to new elections.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (R) during an award ceremony honoring those in the fight against human trafficking, at the Presidential compound Jerusalem on December 2, 2014. Netanyahu today fired centrist ministers Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid from his coalition government and said he'd act to dissolve the parliament ahead of new elections. (Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)
Government officials told Israeli media outlets that elections would most likely take place in March, meaning that the current government will have served only two years.
In a televised press conference, Netanyahu said, “In the present circumstances in the current government, it’s impossible to lead the country.”
The prime minister blamed the two ministers for undermining his leadership and said he aspired to form a more harmonious government.
Netanyahu’s move followed weeks of tension and political infighting in his coalition government over issues ranging from the economy, the relations with the Palestinian Authority and a law defining Israel as the Jewish state.
Earlier in the day, Livni, the justice minister, accused Netanyahu of "extremism, provocativeness and paranoia."
The Jerusalem Post reported that Livni spoke at a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies where she accused Netanyahu of "inciting sectors in Israel against each other."
While Livni, Lapid and Netanyahu have had serious differences of opinion on a variety of subjects, the tipping point in their relations appeared to be a heated debate last month over a controversial bill defining Israel as the Jewish state which Livni and Lapid said would detract from Israel’s democratic nature.
There are major challenges facing the Netanyahu government even in the months leading up to new elections, including weeks of violent attacks by Palestinians, particularly in Jerusalem, and a slowing economy.
Israel's Channel 2 television conducted a poll Tuesday which found that 55 percent of Israelis surveyed opposed the holding of new elections now.
This story has been updated.