Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday for early elections.
Speaking at a convention of his Likud faction in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu suggested September as his preferred date for Israelis to vote.
"It is preferable to hold a short election campaign for four months that would enable us to quickly restore stability of our political system," Netanyahu told supporters. "Political instability always leads to blackmail and populism; I will not allow that to happen."
The prime minister kicked off his campaign with a comprehensive, prime-time review of his government's political, financial and security achievements and used the occasion to attack his political rivals. "I respect all the heads of parties who are running for the next Knesset, but the state of Israel cannot afford itself a chief who has no political, security and financial experience," he said.
Netanyahu credited his leadership with slowing Iran's nuclear program. "Only three years ago, Iran continued with its nuclear program without any substantial international resistance," he said. "Today, much due to our actions, the world unites against their nuclear plan. Iran attempts to deceive the world but we will not let go until the threat is truly removed."
While calls for early elections have been building in recent weeks, Netanyahu's speedy decision to go ahead with the move surprised some observers.
The process of heading for elections will be completed when Israeli Knesset members vote for the dissolution of the Knesset, which is Israel's parliament. It was not clear when that vote would be held.
The official date for the next parliamentary elections is October 2013, but the parliament and the prime minister have the power to move them up.