Legislation to dissolve the Israeli Knesset and go to national elections was approved unanimously on first reading.
Israeli lawmakers voted 99-0, with one voting "present," on Monday night to dissolve the 18th Knesset and hold elections for a new government on Jan. 22. The measure still must pass the second and third readings.
Following the vote on the first reading, the legislation went to the Knesset House Committee for discussion. It was expected to go back to the full Knesset for the second and third readings later Monday night or early Tuesday morning.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, President Shimon Peres, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and a host of other lawmakers spoke in the hours before the vote on the opening day of the winter session.
Elections for the next Knesset had been scheduled for October 2013. The new poll will take place four years since the last vote.
Netanyahu had announced last week, after consulting with his coalition partners, that the country would go to early elections, saying it was impossible to pass the 2013 budget without first holding elections.
"These coming elections are intended to set our goals for the future," Peres said. "They should be conducted with respect, with sensitivity to one another and with restraint. The elections should be a national debate without senseless attacks."