THE USUAL paring operation is going on at the United Nations to find a Jerusalem resolution that will fit the requirements of Arabs, Israelis, Americans and others. One issue is whether a resolution criticizing Israel for the horrendous police shooting of 21 Palestinian demonstrators will, as it should, refer as well to the precipitating event of Palestinian stonings of Israeli worshipers. A second issue is whether the U.N. will stop at sending a secretary general's inspection mission, as it should, or move on to the unprepared ground of creating a Security Council enforcement presence in the Israeli-occupied territories. A council vote may come today.

Any likely resolution that emerges will be widely seen as a slap at Israel, not least because the United States will be aboard. But this is too narrow a reading. Unquestionably, the death of 21 protesters (even if they came armed with stones) at that revered site and at this volatile moment is the stuff of international alarm. To rush to judgment before serious post-mortems have begun is unfortunate, but it would have been hard for the Bush administration to protect Israel altogether from U.N. intercession. It would also have been to America's and Israel's strategic disadvantage. American leadership in steering a consensus resolution to passage can only help Washington keep together the coalition it organized against Iraq's conquest of Kuwait. The plain international interest lies in maintaining a sharp focus on Iraq, despite attempts by Saddam Hussein and others to divert attention to the Arab-Israeli dispute.

The West is often charged with being selectively attentive to the two issues. Certainly there can be no ''rewarding'' of Saddam Hussein or helping him slip the United Nations noose. But it is folly to ignore the powerful claim that the Palestinians have on Arab emotion. "What we can do now while the aggressor is still in Kuwait," says the British foreign secretary, Douglas Hurd, "is not to take precise {Arab-Israeli} initiatives but to show our interest, to show that this is not forgotten, show our recognition that this is unfinished business to which we must return as soon as the aggressor has withdrawn or been expelled." This formulation is a commitment to action that puts the burden of delay on Saddam Hussein. What are in fact the twin Palestine and Israel issues -- the one's demand for statehood, the other's demand for regional acceptance -- are moving toward the top of the post-crisis agenda.