Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party received a needed boost on Wednesday when former Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria director-general Otniel Schneller joined the party.
Schneller, who lives in the settlement of Michmas near Ma'aleh Adumim, became the 33rd candidate to join Kadima's Knesset list, but the first resident of Judea or Samaria and only the second kippa wearer after David Tal.
A retired major-general who commanded the IDF's Judea-Samaria division, Schneller turned down Sharon's offer to head the disengagement authority a year ago. Now he will be given the difficult task of recruiting settlers to Kadima.
Schneller said he will explain to residents of Judea and Samaria that the diplomatic process is inevitable and that it is best that Israel's eastern border be drawn by Sharon, because of his emotional ties to the land. He said that in the long run, Sharon would be able to hold onto more of the land of Israel than any other potential prime minister.
"We will need to pay a price to maintain our demographic advantage over the Palestinians and keep the settlement blocs," Schneller said. Some settlements will have to be moved. If Sharon succeeds in crafting a new map of settlements that will be permanent, it will be a historical accomplishment."
Schneller said that with such challenges ahead, it is important that Kadima work to unite the Right and Left and the religious and secular. He said this would be his main goal in the party.
"I want Kadima to be a bridge that will try to unify fractures of 60 years," Schneller said. "The party that has united Shimon Peres and Tzahi Hanegbi should be able to unite [the Tel Aviv ultra-secular] Shenkin Street with the settlers."
Benzi Lieberman, who currently heads the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said Schneller told him two weeks ago that he might join Kadima.
"I thought he was joking," said Lieberman, adding that just to be on the safe side, he told Schneller that doing so would be a mistake. "I'm strongly opposed to it," he said. "Schneller is among those who do not understand the reality we are living in."
Lieberman accused Schneller of joining Kadima because "he is looking for a way to be an MK and he has found it." He said that Schneller's involvement with the council was fleeting and that his actions clearly did not reflect is views.
National Union MK Effi Eitam said that Schneller's joining Kadima was "a new ethical low." He said that Schneller represents a small minority that has given up and will participate in the uprooting of settlements."
In other Kadima news, the state party registrar Yaron Keidar officially approved Kadima's request to be registered as a new party. Keidar turned down appeals by parties with the same name in Beersheba and Ashkelon who protested against the name.