The U.N. Security Council moved tonight toward adoption of a resolution calling on Israel to rescind its annexaton of the Golan Heights "forthwith."
The text, to which the Syrians reportedly have agreed, was sent out for approval by governments, and a vote is expected Thursday. The United States did not approve the proposed text.
U.S. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick did not attend the session, having spent the day in Washington -- reportedly conferring with Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and officials at the White House on the U.S. stand.
The original text, submitted by Syrian Ambassador Dia-Allah Fattal, set a one-week deadline for compliance and committed the council, in the event Israel refused its call, to "meet again to take necessary measures" in accord with the U.N. Charter.
Several Western countries immediately objected to the brevity of the deadline and to the implied pre-commitment to punitive action against the Israelis.
As a result, the proposed deadline for reconvening the council was pushed back to Jan. 5, and the commitment was only to "consider taking" punitive measures.
Fattal called the resolution adopted Monday by the Israeli parliament applying Israeli law to the occupied territory "a breach of the cease-fire and an act of war against our country."
Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Blum responded to the Syrian's charges by citing past instances of "Syrian aggression" and maintaining that the Syrians had always refused to talk peace.
"There is a limit to how long any country can live under such threats," he said and added that it had become "incongruous" for the Israeli settlers on the Golan to live under Syrian laws.
Blum denied that the Israeli parliament's action violated Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, the text that has served as the basis for the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt.
Fattal told reporters that his original resolution was "mild" -- there was, for example, no condemnation of the Israeli action in the text -- and said he saw no need to modify it. But other Arab diplomats said Syria seemed "keen" on winning a compromise that would produce American support for a unanimous resolution.
Washington was also said to be anxious to take some form of punitive action against Israel to erase any suspicion in the Arab world that the recent "strategic cooperation" agreement with the Israelis had resulted in American collusion in the stunning move on the Golan.
Fattal warned that "any leniency on the part of the U.S. will be interpreted by the Israeli fascist establishment as an encouragement of its adventurist and aggressive policies."
Soviet Ambassador Oleg Troyanovsky similarly pointed to American support for Israel and warned that the United States "has to bear full responsibility for the Israeli action."
The situation was similar to the one on June 19, when Kirkpatrick negotiated a compromise resolution with Iraqi Foreign Minister Saadoun Hammadi condemning the Israeli destruction of the Iraqi nuclear-power complex near Baghdad on June 7.
Ambassador Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid of Egypt said the annexation "was not only a blatant violation of all norms of international law but also a serious challenge to the prospects of stability and indeed to the peace process in the Middle East."
In particular, he said, it would "jeopardize any hope of confidence-building" and "dissipate all possibilities, though meager, of reconciliation or coexistence."
Saudi representative Gaafar Allegany questioned the value of the debate, charging that past American vetoes had convinced Israel it could act without fear of punishment. "Is this exercise going to lead to anything more than a vetoed or unvetoed condemnation?" he asked. Allegany suggested that any U.S. wavering would be a "breach of faith" that Israel would seize upon.
In the General Assembly earlier today, a routine resolution was adopted condemning Israeli practices such as the establishment of settlements on the Golan Heights, but containing no reference to the act of annexation.
The West Europeans, who usually abstain on such texts, announced that they were voting for it because of the Israeli move Monday. The United States, which usually votes no, abstained -- leaving Israel in isolation.