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Netanyahu announces early elections in Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a snap election amid his relatively good approval rating.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make an announcement at 8 p.m. today and is expected to call an early election. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday evening called for early elections in the country, saying they should be held "as soon as possible," the Jerusalem Post reported.

“I have decided that the best interests of Israel obligate us to go to elections now and as quickly as possible,” Netanyahu said in a televised address, according to Bloomberg.

Reporting from Jerusalem, GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky said that Netanyahu did not announce a date for the elections, but that polling will likely take place within three months.

Israel was not due to hold an election until October 2013, but Netanyahu has been locked in a dispute with coalition partners over passing a state budget.

In "very brief" remarks, Tarnopolsky said Netanyahu did not mention many specifics; his omissions included any remarks on the Palestinians, the peace process, or social protest in Israel, she said.

Netanyahu did highlight two things: stronger security and a stronger economy, which he called his "two principle achievements," according to Tarnopolsky.

"Many challenges still lie ahead. A non-nuclear Iran, protecting Israel from terror, securing the existing peace accords, guaranteeing a flourishing and growing economy," Netanyahu said, adding: "We must continue on the same path."

The announcement follows consultations by the Israeli leader with the heads of parties in his coalition.

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Harretz reported that Netanyahu is seizing the opportunity while he has a relatively positive approval rate, and the Likud party is enjoying good standing in the polls.

Netanyahu has been meeting this week with members of his coalition to reach an agreement on the 2013 budget. He has been calling for deep cuts to stay within the targeted deficit and is facing opposition from coalition members who are reluctant to reduce spending.

Israel must cut next year’s budget by about 17 billion shekels ($4.4 billion) to stay within fiscal limits as it faces a possible deepening of the European financial crisis, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said in August. 

“Netanyahu sees that the polls are in his favor right now, and if he’s having trouble with the budget this would be the best time for elections rather than waiting another year,” Mark Heller, senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, was quoted in Businessweek.

The Chicago Tribune said opinion polls show Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party would coast to victory in an early poll.

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politics/121009/netanyahu-announce-early-election-today-official-claims