Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have agreed to join forces for a general election in the new year, boosting the premier's position as favourite.
Netanyahu and Lieberman said Thursday they will present a joint list for the January 22 election without merging their respective parties, Likud and Yisrael Beitenu.
"Israel needs to unify its forces to govern and face security and economic challenges... The Likud and Yisrael Beitenu will therefore present a common list in the next election," Netanyahu told reporters.
Lieberman said he intended to "contribute to the stability of the next government."
"De facto, we have already established a change in the political system, which ensures stability" of power, he said.
Netanyahu and Lieberman held secret negotiations before announcing their surprise alliance which will allow them to present themselves as the most likely grouping to head the next coalition government.
Likud currently has 26 seats in the 120-seat Knesset or parliament, and Yisrael Beitenu has 15.
Polls show both parties should at least retain or even boost their representation in the chamber.
Parliament voted overnight on Monday to dissolve itself ahead of elections by 100 votes to none in a third reading following a nearly nine-hour session.
Netanyahu has blamed the need for early elections on a coalition deadlock over the passage of a budget packed with austerity measures, but commentators say it was a move to capitalise on his current standing in the polls, which put him as the sole realistic contender for the premiership.
Israel's current ruling coalition, which includes the centrist Independence party headed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, holds 66 seats, but a poll published earlier this month in Haaretz newspaper showed that even without Barak's faction, Netanyahu and his allies looked set to increase their number