"Those who belittle the Iranian nuclear threat on Israel
are not worthy of leading Israel for even one day," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
told the opening of the Knesset's winter session on Monday.
"Today we have the capabilities to act against Iran and its offshoots; capabilities that we did not possess in the past," he said.
Later, the House is expected to pass a bill to disband the 18th Knesset, effectively kicking off the election campaign. The proposal currently calls for the date of elections for the 19th Knesset to be January 22, 2013.
was originally scheduled to dissolve in the second half of 2013.
Netanyahu said the next elections will determine who will lead Israel in the face of "the greatest security-related challenges Israel has faced since its inception" and "the most severe economic crisis the world has seen in 80 years."
The premier went on to list what he referred to as his government's achievements, saying that when he took office, unemployment was on the rise and Israel was experiencing a slowdown in growth.
Moreover, he said, before he took office, the missile threat from the north was graver and the infiltration of migrants from Egypt
According to Netanyahu, his government's policy resulted in improvements in all these fields, and it also helped increase global awareness to the Iranian
President Shimon Peres,
who spoke before Netanyahu, also addressed the Iranian threat. "We are preparing for Iran's attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon. The current Iranian regime is a clear and present threat to the entire world, not only to Israel," he told the plenum.
"All options, including the military option, must be on the table, so the Iranians will understand how serious they (options) are," he said. "The military option is not the preferred one, but in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of Israel it is serious. The Iranian regime's policy is not just a show. It should be treated as a real threat."
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who opened the winter session, said "the truth is that we have gathered here to disband. In the next few hours, the session that has just opened will end. Many Israeli citizens are wondering why. What is the justification for dissolving the Knesset at this time? Some claim the early elections are unnecessary. We should ask ourselves why so many citizens feel this way. Why there is a sense within the Israeli public that every election campaign is a waste of the taxpayers' money, a political masquerade.
"The Israeli public has grown accustomed to go to the polls due to political reasons; due to political ploys. On too many occasions we have gone to elections for the wrong reasons," he said.
But the next elections, according to Rivlin, are necessary. "These elections are the inevitable result of a democratic, healthy and vital debate. This Knesset is going to elections because it has failed to decide on cardinal issues related first and foremost to the social-economic debate in the State of Israel," the speaker told the plenum.
"In this situation, whereby the government does not have any partners that will help it pass the budget, it is the Israeli public that must rule on these fundamental issues by going to the polls."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report