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(photo credit: AP)
A number of parliamentarians have attacked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for failing to appoint his own settlement adviser in his office.
"If I were the prime minister I would have done it from day one," said MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who in the past government served as a liaison between the Prime Minister's Office and the settlers.
He told The Jerusalem Post that in this diplomatic climate, where settlements were a source of tension between Israel and the international community, this appointment was as important as that of the national security adviser.
Every day that went by without this appointment was a waste, said Schneller.
To date, the post has been filled by Uzi Keren, who served as the settlement adviser to former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.
In the past the position has not been limited to settlements over the Green Line, but also involved the settlement of Israelis in the Negev, the Galilee and the rest of the "periphery."
Keren, who has been on the job for eight years, has agreed to remain until the position is filled - but his lame duck status has left a recognizable hole in the Prime Minister's Office, according to some settlers and MKs.
Settlers are in touch both with Keren and with the Prime Minister's Office and feel that informal communication exists.
However, the absence of a Netanyahu appointee has made dialogue more difficult, said Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip chairman Dani Dayan.
MK Danny Dannon (Likud) said that today, "the settlers feel as if they do not have anyone to speak with" in Netanyahu's office.
Like Schneller, Dannon said he felt that Netanyahu should have appointed someone immediately upon taking over as prime minister.
Sources told the Post that Netanyahu had taken some steps toward filling the position, and has weighed hiring veteran settler leader Pinchas Wallerstein, who is the director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and Adi Mintz, who formerly held that position.
Wallerstein said he had been approached by the Prime Minister's Office, but had then been informed that he was not a candidate for the post.
Mintz had no comment on the matter.
The Prime Minister's Office said only that Keren was serving as an adviser until a replacement was found.
Some sources who spoke with the Post speculated that Netanyahu was waiting to reach an agreement with the United States on the issue of settlements, and only then would he appoint a settlement adviser.
The terms of that agreement would in turn set the criteria for who would best fill that position, said the sources.
They noted that in the interim, Netanyahu's office was relying heavily on the Defense Ministry regarding these issues. The ministry has its own settlement adviser, Eitan Broshi, who meets regularly with the settlers.