Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday called an early election, telling a Jerusalem press conference it should be held "as fast as possible."
"My duty as prime minister is to put the national interest before everything, and so I've decided that for the good of Israel we must go to an election now as fast as possible," he said, without giving a date for what will be a vote for Israel's 19th parliament, or Knesset.
"For the state of Israel, it is preferable to have a short election period of three months than a long election campaign which would last a whole year, and hurt Israel's economy," he said.
Elections had been due to take place in October 2013 and Israeli press reports suggested the vote would be held in late January or mid February.
Netanyahu said he had decided to pull forward the date after consulting with the heads of parties within his ruling rightwing coalition over the budget, which led him to the conclusion it would be impossible to pass "a responsible budget" for 2013 before the year's end.