In a vote of 64-44, the Israeli Knesset on Monday night approved in its first reading a bill to disband the legislature.
Second and third readings will likely be held Wednesday night if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to secure a coalition by then. Only if the bill is approved in all three readings can new elections be held.
A tentative date for another round of elections is September 17, just 161 days after the previous election — an unprecedentedly short interval.
The failure of coalition negotiations has hinged on talks between Netanyahu and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who has refused to join the government unless he is promised the passage of a law subjecting ultra-Orthodox Israeli men to the country’s mandatory draft. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas parties have refused to be part of Netanyahu’s coalition if such a law is drafted.
Opposition leaders have said they want to be given the opportunity to form a government, rather than go to elections.
Recent polls have shown that a new election would yield an even stronger right-wing bloc than was chosen on April 9, with Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked predicted to pass the threshold, Likud to gain a seat, the Union of Right Wing Parties to gain a seat and the United Arab List and Kulanu Party dropping out of the legislature.
Analysts believe Kulanu would merge with Likud if new elections are called.