Israel’s Parliament on Tuesday set a January 22 date for a national election and opinion polls predict an easy win for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in balloting expected to focus on his tough policies on Iran’s nuclear program and economics. Lawmakers approved the measure by a vote of 100 to nil after a more than eight-hour debate, dissolving parliament, or ending its term of office, effective immediately and months ahead of schedule. Israeli elections had been expected in October 2013, but it is common for governments to break up before their terms expire over disagreements about budgets, policy on religion or the nation’s conflicts with Arab and other neighbors.
Opinion polls have indicated an easy election victory for the right-wing Likud party’s leader Netanyahu, who is likely to head a coalition that includes nationalist and religious parties. In a combative speech to parliament ahead of three requisite votes held to disband the body, Netanyahu urged lawmakers to back the January 22 date approved by his cabinet after he said difficulties agreeing a 2013 budget with coalition partners had meant such a vote was necessary. Kicking off his re-election campaign, Netanyahu focused in his speech on tough measures he had taken to improve security for Israelis, such as building a fence along the border with Egypt’s Sinai, and deploying a missile shield against rockets fired from Gaza. Alluding to past threats to attack Iran to stop it from building a nuclear bomb, something Tehran denies, Netanyahu said Israel now had new unspecified “capabilities to act against Iran and its satellites (allied militants in Gaza and Lebanon), capabilities we didn’t have in the past”.