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Israel to Hold Early Elections, Dissolve Knesset


FILE - Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Oct. 7, 2018.

Israel will hold early general elections in April and the Knesset will be dissolved, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party said Monday.

Netanyahu's coalition has been plagued by internal divisions for months, including the recent resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in protest of what he perceived to be the government's weak response to rocket attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The prime minister's Likud party also faces criticism from Ultra Orthodox Jews over a new bill which would extend the military draft to include them. Ultra Orthodox Jews have been exempted from the draft for years as they fear conscription could lead to immersion in secularism.

General elections were initially scheduled to be held in November of 2019.

Despite the disagreements, Netanyahu seems well placed to win another term as Israel's prime minister, which would make him the country's longest-serving leader. However, he faces potential criminal charges over corruption allegations, and police have recommended he be indicted on bribery allegations. The Justice Ministry announced Wednesday that deliberations continued as the country eagerly awaits a decision from the attorney general.

Netanyahu has angrily dismissed the allegations against him, emulating his ally U.S. President Donald Trump in calling them a "witch hunt" against him.

The dissolving of parliament and scheduling of early elections is far from rare in Israel. The last time a government served its full term was in 1988, according to the Associated Press. Since then, similar coalition crises have led to early elections.