The Knesset, which came into office less than two months ago, voted early Thursday 74-45 to disperse and call new elections. Netanyahu appeared to cruise to victory in April 9 elections. But infighting among ultra-Orthodox and secular ultranationalist allies, and disagreement over proposed bills to protect Netanyahu from prosecution stymied his efforts to form a coalition.
Rather than concede that task to one of his rivals, Netanyahu's Likud party advanced a bill to dissolve parliament and send the country to the polls for a second time this year.
Israel's parliament has approved a preliminary vote to dissolve itself, taking another step toward early elections.
With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unable to form a coalition by a midnight deadline, parliament approved the motion late Wednesday 74 to 45.
It was the second of three required votes to pass the motion. The final vote was scheduled early Thursday.
Final approval would schedule a new election in September.
Netanyahu appeared to cruise to victory in April 9 elections. But during six weeks of negotiations, he was unable to muster support to win a parliamentary majority.
Israel's raucous political world is on edge, counting down to a midnight deadline to see whether a new government will be formed or whether there will be an unpresented second election of the year.
Backchannel negotiations are continuing to try and find a compromise that will allow Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu faction to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition.
Without him, Netanyahu has no parliamentary majority and won't be able to form a government.
Netanyahu and Lieberman are engaged in a high-stakes showdown and neither side appears ready to blink.
The crisis ostensibly revolves around Lieberman's demand that current legislation mandating young ultra-Orthodox men be drafted into the military, like most other Jewish males, run its course. Netanyahu, dependent on the resistant ultra-Orthodox parties, is refusing to press them.