JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Sunday that he is moving to dismantle what has been considered one of the more stable coalition governments in Israel's history and calling early elections in September.
The decision to move up balloting originally scheduled for next year came as little surprise; it had been rumored for months. Yet it marked a premature end to Netanyahu's right-wing government, which many expected to survive a full four-year term — a rarity in a country where most governments have lasted about 2½ years.
The move had some Israelis scratching their heads because it was not precipitated by a political scandal or fractured coalition, which typically lead to an early vote. Instead it appears to be a strategic decision by Netanyahu, with the support of the major political parties.
Netanyahu did not mention an exact date for the election, but it is expected to be Sept. 4.
He will be seeking his third term and wants to strike while his popularity is strong and there are few viable leaders to challenge him, analysts say. Polls suggest his Likud Party will get the most votes in the election.
"Netanyahu is popular in the polls for the moment," said Hebrew University political science professor Avraham Diskin. "This is a convenient time for elections. Of course, moving up elections is always a gamble."