Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday he was prepared to consider shortening Israel's work week to four days and lengthening the weekend.

"It is impossible to stop the train now that it has left the station," Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, who had proposed the move, said yesterday. "We must move to a long weekend as soon as possible, in keeping with all the developed world states."

Netanyahu said at the Likud faction meeting yesterday that he had appointed Professor Eugene Kandel, head of the National Economic Council and economic advisor to the prime minister, to look into the possibility of canceling Sunday as a work day and turning it into another day off.

According to the plan, Saturday and Sunday would be holidays and Friday would be a work day until noon.

Kandel is expected to set up a committee consisting of all the relevant ministries to examine the proposal's implications. Netanyahu said the issue was a complicated one and required serious examination from several angles, economic, social, religious and ideological.

Shalom's initiative was recently endorsed by the Israel Manufacturers Association, Chambers of Commerce Presidium, the Union of Local Authorities, Hotel Association, the teachers unions, the National Economic Council and the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office.

Two Likud Knesset members, Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin, submitted private bills about introducing a long weekend. Their move was intended to force the cabinet to make a decision to advance the initiative.

Shalom proposed the weekend would be on Saturday and Sunday, while the work-week would be from Monday to Friday noon. In exchange for the longer weekend, we will work half an hour more per day.

One of the reasons for the proposal was the absence of a "real" weekend in Israel, like in the rest of the Western world. More than 75 percent of the world's population and 100 percent of the developed world's population have adopted Saturday and Sunday as their days of rest.

Shalom said the shift would be good for Israel's economy, exporters, stock exchange traders and high-tech companies. Contrary to the general assumption, moving to a long weekend would not reduce the work hours, he said.

The move will also lead to a five-day school week, which would mean introducing a long school day and providing lunch at school, he said.

A long school day would remove the restrictions on many working women, enabling them to advance to senior executive positions.

In addition, a long weekend would help to develop leisure and culture activities, with youth movements and community centers able to hold activities for school children on Sundays.