MKs vow to pass Sundays-off bill despite gov’t inquiry

Vice PM Shalom meets with new Knesset caucus that will lobby for longer weekend.

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom_311 (photo credit: Reuters/Mike Cassese)
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom_311
(photo credit: Reuters/Mike Cassese)
Knesset members from across the political spectrum vowed on Monday to pass a bill that would make Sunday a day off by the end of the Knesset’s winter session on March 21.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, who initiated the legislation, met on Monday with a new Knesset caucus that will lobby for a longer weekend.
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The MKs in the caucus said they would proceed with their legislation despite the work of a committee appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to examine options for shortening the work week.
The committee, headed by National Economic Council head Prof. Eugene Kandel, has sent 200 business leaders and socioeconomic organizations a questionnaire asking whether they preferred making Sunday part of a longer weekend or other options.
The alternatives include 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.
Shalom said it was important to synchronize Israel’s economy with world markets, boost trade and tourism, strengthen the periphery and lengthen the school day, which he said could help the career advancement of mothers.
He said the alternatives to Sundays off presented by the committee would not do such things.
“The goal is for Israel have a real weekend, which our society and economy needs,” Shalom said. “The alternatives being considered would give workers more time off, but they would not benefit the economy and society.”
Caucus co-chairman Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) called upon relevant institutions and organizations to start preparing for the initiation of a longer weekend, because “there is no going back” from the move.
Although Netanyahu gave the Kandel committee until the end of March to complete its work, Orlev said the committee needed to finish early, because the Knesset would not wait to pass the Sundays-off bill. Orlev said there was a strong majority for the bill, which he sponsored together with coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin and Labor MK Eitan Cabel.
Kadima MK Ze’ev Bielski participated in the meeting and said MKs from his faction would also support the bill, making its passage virtually guaranteed.
“After the bill passes and is implemented, everyone will be asking why we didn’t do this a long time ago,” said the co-chairman of the caucus, Likud MK Yariv Levin.