Sundays-off panel asks for more time to study issue

Netanyahu appointed the committee on July 4 following pressure from Vice Premier Silvan Shalom.

Silvan Shalom on Iran (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Silvan Shalom on Iran
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
A committee appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to examine the option of a five-day work week will complete its work at least three months late, according to a letter obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post.
Netanyahu appointed the committee on July 4 following pressure from Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, the main political patron of the initiative. The committee, headed by National Economic Council head Prof. Eugene Kandel, was tasked with making recommendations to Netanyahu by the end of March.
But Kandel wrote Netanyahu that the committee had not yet completed its work. He asked the prime minister to extend the deadline to June 30.
“Due to the complexity of the issue and the vastness of its potential impact, I believe that submitting our report by the deadline set when we were appointed would harm the quality of our recommendations,” Kandel wrote the prime minister.
The committee has sent dozens of business leaders, heads of organizations and governmental bodies a questionnaire asking whether they preferred making Sunday part of a longer weekend or several other options.
The alternatives included giving workers an additional week of vacation time to use whenever they wanted, adopting a half-day of work on Tuesday or Thursday, making dates of national significance like Jerusalem Day and Remembrance Day days off, and making Hanukka or Hol Hamoed Succot days off for workers as they already are for schoolchildren.
Likud officials have accused Netanyahu of appointing the committee to stall and not advance an issue identified with Shalom, his Likud rival. Shalom already started promoting the idea when he was finance minister a decade ago.
Shalom said he would continue to advance the initiative because of its multiple benefits to society, which he said were evident in the long weekends Israelis enjoyed at the start and end of Passover. He warned that he would not wait too much longer before bypassing the cabinet and promoting it independently via the Knesset, where it enjoys a strong majority.
“If the cabinet takes its time, the initiative will be advanced by private member’s bills,” Shalom said. “This necessary move to synchronize Israel with the Western world, bolster family time and encourage a weekend culture in Israel cannot be stopped.”