JERUSALEM, AUG. 22 -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said tonight that the government is worried about a possible Iraqi attack on Israel but remains determined not to get involved in the gulf crisis.

"We live in this storm, but we have no part in it," Shamir told a national television audience. Because any Israeli action might jeopardize U.S. relations with moderate Arab states, he added, "it is in the interest of the United States that Israel not be involved now."

Shamir expressed concern about the stability of the government of Jordan's King Hussein, saying that the crisis has caused "special distress" for the Jordanian monarch. "Israel's interest is that Jordan be stable . . . and that the king sit on his throne," he added. "He knows that we're not a threat, that we're not going to attack."

Shamir, who has largely avoided comment since Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, spoke to Israeli journalists on a popular weekly interview program. The remarks by the right-wing prime minister appeared designed to reassure Israelis after a week in which fear of war has grown rapidly. Shamir also appeared intent on easing tensions between Israel and Jordan, which have accused each other of preparing for conflict.

Shamir's televised appearance followed a special meeting of Israel's cabinet in which the ministers decided to defer any move to distribute gas masks and other protective equipment to the public. In the last few days, a debate has erupted over whether the equipment should be handed out to the country's 4.5 million citizens and visitors as a precaution against a chemical weapons attack by Iraq.

At Shamir's urging, the government avoided a final decision on the issue, calling instead for a study by a committee appointed by Shamir along with military officials. The move headed off a showdown between Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who has said there is no need to distribute gas masks, and Foreign Minister David Levy, who has demanded that the equipment be handed out.

Shamir, who avoided taking a stand on the gas mask issue, said the government and military were constantly monitoring the crisis and the threat to Israel posed by Iraq. "This is an emergency situation," he said. "Of course, we are worried. We have to be worried. . . . We have to be ready to oppose, to defend, to prevent."

Other government officials said Israel continues to believe that a war is likely to break out between U.S. and Iraqi forces. "The two sides are on a collision course," said a senior official. "There doesn't seem to be any way to avoid it."

Sources also confirmed that Shamir has signaled to visiting American Jewish leaders and members of Congress that Israel will seek increased U.S. military and financial aid as a result of the crisis. Although Israel has not made any formal request to the United States, Shamir believes the country needs quicker deliveries of weapons as well as financial help to absorb an influx of Soviet immigrants, sources said.

In his television appearance, Shamir made no mention of U.S. aid. But he denied that Israel was failing to fulfill a role as a strategic asset to the United States. "Everything we are doing is in agreement" with Washington, he said.

"It's clear that someone wants us to become involved in this conflict and that's Iraq and {Iraqi President} Saddam Hussein," Shamir said. "He wants to make this into an Arab-Israeli conflict . . . but we have no intention of helping Saddam Hussein to involve us in this conflict."