Israel's parliament has dissolved itself and will hold early elections on January 22.
The dissolution of the Knesset was approved by 100 votes to none in the 120-seat chamber.
Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he wanted to bring forward the election -- originally scheduled for October 2013 -- because of the current deadlock among coalition partners over the passage of a budget packed with austerity measures.
Opinion polls suggest that Likud-leader Netenyahu and his coalition of right-wing and religious parties will win comfortably given the current regional tensions and the world economic crisis.
'I'm asking to hold elections on Tuesday, January 22, 2013,' Netanyahu told the house at the start of the debate.
'In less than 100 days the people of Israel will decide who will lead them in the face of the greatest security challenges which we have known since the founding of the state; who will lead them in the face of the toughest economic crisis the world has known in the past 80 years,' he added.
Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the gravest strategic threat facing his country is a nuclear-armed Iran. The Islamic republic denies it wants nuclear weapons.
Israel, the Middle East's sole, if undeclared, nuclear power, will not rule out military action to prevent Tehran obtaining such arms.
'Anyone who belittles the threat which a nuclear Iran poses to Israel is not worthy of leading Israel for even one day,' Netanyahu told the Knesset.
'Today we have the capabilities to act against Iran and its satellites; capabilities that we did not possess in the past,' he said, without elaborating.
Following the decision to call an election, the Knesset is immediately dissolved and an election recess comes into force, marking the official start of campaigning.
A survey published last week by the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper found that Netanyahu and his allies were set to increase their number of seats to 68, while the opposition -- comprising centrist, left-wing and Arab parties -- would win just 52.
Netanyahu's existing coalition, which includes the centrist Independence party headed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, currently holds 66 seats.