By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Supreme Court president accused the country's right-wing justice minister on Thursday of bringing "a gun to the table" in a dispute over a proposed reform that could make the court more conservative.
In a letter to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Chief Justice Miriam Naor accused her of failing to voice reservations about a bill that would effectively remove the court's current veto in a committee that selects new justices.
Shaked has said she wants more conservative judges named to the court, whose oversight and occasional reversal of Israeli laws have drawn criticism from her and other right-wingers. The bill by a far-right legislator could help smooth the way since four slots on the 15-member court are due to open next year.
"Proposing the law at this time constitutes, under the circumstances, bringing a gun to the table," Naor wrote in the letter released to media.
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She suggested it was a bid to influence the outcome of the court's preliminary consultations with Shaked about a list of nominees.
"I can only interpret your silence as an expression of support ... for the bill," she said, announcing she was suspending appointment discussions with the justice minister, a leading figure in the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party.
Under the current law, a successful candidate for the Supreme Court needs support from at least seven of the nine selection committee members. Three of them are court justices who can block an appointment if they vote the same way.
The proposed change would require only a simple majority, effectively enabling government representatives and others on the panel to push through an appointment over the court's objections.
In a statement, Shaked's office said she planned to push ahead with regular meetings of the committee - whether the justices turn up or not - and intends to publish a list of candidates for Supreme Court membership soon. Israel Radio reported the nominees would be announced on Sunday.
(This version of the story corrects the day in the first paragraph)
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Tom Heneghan)