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Otniel Schneller 311.(Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Kadima slaps heavy punishment on rebel MK Schneller
Schneller, who voted in favor of Referendum Law, says "this was a failure of Kadima to understand the strength of ideological beliefs."
Kadima MK Otniel Schneller cast doubt Thursday on his ability to remain within the party for the long term after its internal discipline committee delivered a harsh set of penalties against him for refusing to follow party discipline during Monday’s vote on the National Referendum Law.

Schneller was suspended from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and forbidden to propose bills and topics of discussion in the Knesset for three months. He is the chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee for Security, Foreign Policy and International Commerce.

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“The issue is to what extent values and ideology drive Israeli politics, versus the power of political considerations,” Schneller told The Jerusalem Post shortly after the disciplinary decision was issued.

“When I decided to join Kadima, it was a very difficult decision, because Kadima was not the party or the ideological direction in which I grew up,” he explained. “But it is a framework that in my eyes, at least, was a way to find common ground between Right and Left to prevent civil war. The then-chair of Kadima initiated the National Referendum Bill because he understood that national unity was the key for a real, successful diplomatic process.”

Schneller emphasized that he had been one of the bill’s original sponsors, and that in both his previous book and the book he is currently writing, he emphasized use of national referenda as a tool to ensure unity and avoid civil war.

“I had no choice but to vote for the law,” explained Schneller. “This was a failure of Kadima to understand that ideological questions are not technical questions. Thus the solution that was proposed – of not voting if you support the bill – was not a moral solution. I knew that I would be punished, because I did something against the faction.”

The veteran Kadima MK did, however, complain that the punishment he had received was “disproportionate, exaggerated, and expressed the lack of understanding among members of Kadima’s leadership regarding the depth and strength of ideological beliefs.”

“For some of my colleagues,” Schneller gibed, “ideology is just a marketing term. But my way is not to bend my ideological perspective to suit my political needs.”

Kadima, he complained, had made a decision “to give up on the Center, and decided to be a left-wing party.”

“With the existing ideological perspective and the current make-up personality-wise, I don’t think I would continue in Kadima if the elections were tomorrow,” said Schneller. “Kadima left Kadima a while ago, and climbed on the Labor Party’s wagon. The right wing of Kadima is now Labor, the left wing is Meretz, and I don’t think I could continue to ride on that kind of an airplane.”

Still, he remained optimistic that his party could be returned to what he described as its founding vision.

“I am a member of Kadima, I want to stay in Kadima, I don’t want to leave Kadima, but I want to act according to Kadima’s platform within Kadima,” he concluded.

Schneller and fellow Kadima MK Eli Aflalo voted together with the government in favor of the referendum bill, even though the party had announced it would oppose the measure.

Schneller’s disciplinary hearing was held the morning after the referendum vote, and Aflalo’s hearing is scheduled for next Monday.

Many Kadima members were absent from the Monday night vote, rather than go on record against a bill that the party originally sponsored in the previous Knesset. At the end of over six hours of debate, the referendum bill easily passed the Knesset by a vote of 65- 33.

“A number of my fellow faction members spoke with me after the vote,” claimed Schneller. “Some understood me completely, some wanted to do what I did but were afraid, and others said clearly that ‘Kadima is not a faction with freedom of thought, and so we are acting for our political survival.’”
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