President of Israel Shimon Peres
President of Israel Shimon PeresIsrael news photo: Flash 90

President Shimon Peres dissolved the Knesset Monday evening, a necessary step before holding new national elections. The announcement came at the beginning of the Knesset's winter session.

The possibility of early elections arose when acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stepped down as head of the Kadima party and was replaced by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Livni then became Prime Minister-designate, and was charged with creating a coalition. Livni failed to create a coalition, and on Saturday night announced that she would recommend to President Peres to call for new national elections instead of attempting to create a government.

On Monday, Peres met with the heads of the Knesset factions to hear their recommendations. Each faction head could recommend that someone other than Livni be chosen to assemble a coalition, or that the public be allowed to go to the polls. At the end of the day, Peres announced that the overwhelming consensus favored elections.

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik of Kadima spoke at the opening ceremony for the Knesset's winter session on Monday evening and informed the assembled Knesset members that “the opening ceremony is apparently the final note.” Itzik called on those assembled to avoid incitement and allegations against each other, and called for a national unity government that would include parties from both ends of the political spectrum.