JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel's parliament voted overnight to dissolve itself and hold early elections on January 22, officials said Tuesday. The dissolution of the Knesset was approved by 100 votes to none in a third reading after a lengthy session 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.