UNITED NATIONS, NOV. 1 -- U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar suggested today that the 164 nations that signed the Geneva Convention on protecting civilians in wartime should meet to discuss new ways to ensure the safety of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories.

Perez de Cuellar made his surprise recommendation in a report submitted to the Security Council. His report was mandated by an Oct. 12 U.S. resolution that condemned Israel for the deaths Oct. 8 of 20 Palestinians during a riot on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. The resolution asked the secretary general to send a fact-finding mission to Israel but that government refused to receive it.

The new proposal by Perez de Cuellar appeared to have little chance of success, since it is almost certain to be resisted by Israel. But the suggestion could open another front for debate on the Palestinian issue. Arab diplomats said they will press for a Security Council debate to discuss ways of protecting the Palestinians.

The Israeli mission to the United Nations promptly issued a statement reiterating Israel's position that the status of the occupied West Bank and Gaza "is not clear under international law and the Geneva Convention regarding the occupied territory does not legally apply."

"Under established rules of international law Israel has sole responsibility for the administration of these areas including the duty to maintain law and order," it said. "This responsibility is not subject to review or intervention by other authorities."

Nasser Kidwa, acting Palestine Liberation Organization representative to the United Nations, described the report as "soft" but said it "contains a lot of things that aren't apparent at first reading." He said that among other things, it provided the council with a "reasonable basis" for debating the situation in the occupied territories and the creation of a U.N observer force to be sent there.

Asked about American reaction, Thomas Pickering, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said it was "under study."

Perez de Cuellar said the Security Council "might wish to call for a meeting" of the signatories of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to consider designating a "protecting power" for the Palestinians.

He did not explain what he meant by a "protecting power," but diplomats said it could mean anything from expanding the mandate of U.N. personnel already in the area to, as a PLO official suggested, having a neutral country such as Switzerland station troops in Israel.

A U.S. official predicted it could take up to a year to convene such a meeting -- a delay that would have the effect of putting the issue on hold.

Because of Israel's refusal to accept a fact-finding team, Perez de Cuellar said, he has "been unable to secure independent information, on the spot, about the circumstances surrounding the recent events in Jerusalem and similar developments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."

He said that under the Geneva Convention, civilians in occupied territories are entitled to safety and protection, and he added that the signatories have an "important responsibility."

Quoting from the convention, Perez de Cuellar said the signatories "undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present convention in all circumstances."

He said that "numerous appeals" had been made to Israel to "abide by their obligations" under the convention but that these "have been ineffective."

By suggesting that the Security Council might wish to call for a meeting of the contracting parties, he has set the stage for another debate on the occupied territories.

Perez de Cuellar ended his report by noting that it would be "misleading" to conclude without underlining that "it is a political conflict that lies at the heart of the tragic events" that led to the adoption of the two resolutions critical of Israel.

"The determination of the Palestinians to persevere with the intifada {the uprising against Israeli occupation} is evidence of their rejection of the occupation and their commitment to exercise their legitimate political rights, including self-determination," he said. While Israel does not accept the Geneva Convention's legal applicability to the occupied territories, however, it says it abides by the humanitarian provisions of the convention.

The Associated Press reported from Jerusalem:

Police Minister Roni Milo said today that the Israeli police force will be reorganized following last month's killing of 20 Palestinians at the Temple Mount, known to Arabs as Haram Sharif. Few details about the plan were made public.

Under the changes, Israeli news media said, Jerusalem would become a separate police district, rather than being part of the Southern District. The reports said Milo would not fire senior commanders, but would delay promotions or urge early retirement.

A three-member commission appointed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir concluded that police shot in self-defense, but criticized senior commanders for ignoring warnings of trouble. Milo said the changes were drafted "after studying the . . . committee report, its decisions and recommendations."

Meanwhile, near Tel Aviv today, a Palestinian stabbed his former Israeli employer 10 times, police said. The victim was reported in stable condition in a hospital.

Police arrested Ahmed Hamad Azufi, 20, from Gaza's Rafah refugee camp at an army roadblock in Gaza, and also rounded up about 200 Arabs working in factories in the Rishon Lezion area, where Azufi worked.