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Israeli Lawmakers Set March 17 Parliamentary Election

VOA News, Israeli lawmakers have agreed to hold new elections on March 17 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would dissolve the current parliament "as soon as possible."

Party officials decided on the date Wednesday, a day after Netanyahu fired two key ministers and called for early elections.

The parliament was due to begin the process of dissolving itself Wednesday in order to pave way for the March vote.

Opinion polls indicate that Netanyahu's party would likely retain power, allowing him to remain in office.

He said Tuesday that he wanted a "clear mandate" to carry out his policies, and that he would "no longer tolerate an opposition inside the government."

The prime minister dismissed Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

Lapid and Livni split with Netanyahu on several issues, including a controversial Netanyahu supported measure that would declare Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. Critics say the proposal that would remove Arabic as an official language would undermine the democratic character of Israel and further marginalize the 20 percent of Israelis who are Arab.

Internal dissent has also focused on next year's budget, taxation policy and the high cost of living.
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