Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press December 19 ahead of a U.N. Security Council discussion about Israel's discovery of Hezbollah tunnels. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Israeli coalition party leaders agreed Monday to dissolve its legislative body and hold new elections on April 9.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he wants coalition parties to form the nucleus of the next government and hopes to achieve that with the new elections. He asked Israeli voters to give the coalition a clear mandate to continue on its current path, Haaretz reported.
"Out of national and budgetary responsibility, the leaders of the coalition parties decided, unanimously and unanimously, to dissolve the Knesset legislative body and go to new elections at the beginning of April after a four-year term," the heads of the five coalition parties said in a joint statement.
"The partnership in the Knesset and in the government will continue during the elections."
Israel's justice ministry said the early elections would not impact the ongoing criminal investigation of Netanyahu on corruption charges.
The speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, said he would invite opposition party leaders to set a date for the dissolution "as early as possible." Leader of the left-wing opposition party Tamar Zandberg said she welcomed new elections.
"It is time for this coalition to dissolve, and it is time for Israel to get a better future," Zandberg said. "Good riddance."
A Palestinian Liberation Organization official said he hopes Israeli voters will consider peace in the April vote.
"We realize they have other concerns, but we hope they will think about peace and coexistence when they vote," Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior fatah with the PLO said. "We also hope the Israeli politicians will not take advantage of the elections to carry out an escalation against the Palestinian people."
For the past month, the Israeli army has been identifying and destroying tunnels along the Lebanese border they say were built to carry out attacks against its citizens. Last week, Netanyahu called on the Lebanese government to help find and destroy the tunnels.