From LA Times:
Less than two years into office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government collapsed Tuesday as he fired two ministers who lead parties in his ruling coalition.
Ending a protracted political crisis and speculation about early elections, Netanyahu dismissed Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid and said he would move to dissolve parliament and call for elections.
Addressing Israelis at a prime-time televised news conference, Netanyahu accused the two ministers of repeatedly challenging his policies and leadership, citing examples such as Lapid’s criticism of construction in East Jerusalem and Livni’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against the prime minister’s instructions.
“I will no longer tolerate an opposition within the government, I will not tolerate ministers attacking the policy and head of the government from within,” Netanyahu said in announcing the changes. He accused the two of “waging ugly old politics.”
Four other ministers from Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party quit in protest of his dismissal. Yaakov Peri, resigning as science minister, called Netanyahu’s remarks “hesitant, cowardly and even slightly hysterical.”
Livni also had harsh words, calling Netanyahu a “petty politician” and noting that other ministers had criticized him strongly without being fired. The head of the liberal Movement party, Livni has been Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians.
“I will no longer tolerate an opposition within the government, I will not tolerate ministers attacking the policy and head of the government from within”
Netanyahu is the second-longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history. But the outgoing government, his third, is one of the shortest-lived. “This government was contrarian from the start,” Netanyahu said.
An opposition bill to dissolve the Knesset, Israel’s 120-seat parliament, is already slated for discussion Wednesday and is expected to pass.
Approval would start the clock ticking toward general elections, expected in March. The Cabinet would remain in place until a new government is formed after elections, although responsibilities of fired or resigned ministers would have to be entrusted to caretakers.
Previously, elections were not expected until 2016.
The five-party coalition Netanyahu formed after the last elections in January 2013 was divided from the beginning on a wide range of key issues, including the peace process with the Palestinians, settlements and economic policies, but managed to coexist on other matters.
Political differences between liberal and hawkish members were further challenged over the last year by a chain of events including the peace talks and their collapse, the war in the Gaza Strip, settlement controversy and the recent wave of terrorist attacks.
The fraying coalition unraveled rapidly in recent weeks amid fierce clashing between Netanyahu and his top ministers over increasingly contentious legislation, and the budget and economic issues. Coupled with an increasingly restive hawkish contingent within Netanyahu’s Likud Party, infighting in effect paralyzed the government.