JERUSALEM, NOV. 11 -- The government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is demanding that the United States block new action against Israel by the U.N. Security Council as a condition for Israeli acceptance of a mission to Jerusalem by an envoy of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, officials here said today.
Responding to appeals from President Bush and American Jewish leaders, Shamir's government has told the Bush administration that it now may be willing to accept -- with conditions -- a visit to the country by Jean Claude Aime, an official in Perez de Cuellar's office, officials said.
Until now, Shamir has stoutly resisted all efforts by Perez de Cuellar to implement a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on him to send a mission to investigate the killing of 17 Palestinians by Israeli police in the Temple Mount riots last month.
However, Israeli officials said today, Shamir is insisting that any mission by Aime not be directly connected to the two Security Council resolutions that condemned Israel for the killings and called for an investigation.
Instead, they said, Aime's visit would have to be conducted under a broader and more vague mandate. Aime has paid such visits to Israel in the past, most recently in June following a mass slaying of Palestinian workers by an Israeli civilian.
Moreover, the officials said, Israel wants an assurance from the Americans that if it accepts a U.N. visit, the United States will block any further move by the Security Council to take action against Israel. In particular, the government here is anxious to quash any effort to implement a suggestion by Perez de Cuellar that a session of the 160 signatories of the Geneva Convention be called to discuss Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
So far, officials here said late today, Israel has not received that commitment from Washington, nor does its formula for a nonspecific mandate for Aime appear likely to be acceptable to the Security Council. "We are in touch with the State Department and trying to work out a compromise," the official said. "But we are waiting for some kind of assurance that if we make a concession, that will be the end of the problem."
Several officials said they were not optimistic that an agreement would be reached. "If it were easy, we would have done it already," said one official. "To tell the truth we are not very enthusiastic about this."
Israel has been facing pressure from the United Nations and mounting tensions in its relationship with the United States ever since the clashes between police and Palestinians erupted on the Temple Mount, or Haram Sharif, on Oct. 8.
Following an initial Security Council resolution, Shamir refused to accept a mission from Perez de Cuellar, turning aside a personal appeal from Bush that he accept a compromise in the form of a visit by only one official, such as Aime.
Since then, however, Shamir's apparent calculation that international pressure would subside in the face of his tough stand has proved unfounded, several observers here said. In particular, government officials and American Jewish leaders have been alarmed by indications that Bush might go along with a proposed conference in Geneva to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue, an unprecedented event that would be a diplomatic disaster for Israel.
"Shamir miscalculated," said one source familiar with the ongoing negotiations about accepting the U.N. mission. "Now the leadership here has finally woken up to the idea that there has to be some kind of compromise."
Officials said the Israeli cabinet discussed the diplomatic maneuvering briefly in its session today after hard-line Housing Minister Ariel Sharon asked if a deal was in the works. According to Israeli radio, Foreign Minister David Levy responded by saying negotiations were underway with the United States but that no decision had been made on whether to compromise.