Israel said yesterday it will accept a United Nations emissary in exchange for an end to U.N. Security Council criticism over the Oct. 5 killing of 17 Palestinians in Jerusalem. But U.N. sources said the council probably will reject Israel's demand that debate on the Palestinian situation be halted.

"Too little and too late," said one senior diplomat at the United Nations about the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's government to receive Jean Claude Aime, an aide to Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. Foreign Minister David Levy was quoted as telling the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee that Aime could come, but "not on the basis of a Security Council resolution {condemning the Oct. 5 killings} which we reject."

Perez de Cuellar was in Tokyo yesterday for the enthronement of Japan's Emperor Akihito. However, a spokeswoman, Nadia Younes, said in New York that Perez de Cuellar "is now considering sending an emissary." She added: "We do not accept conditions."

That left unclear the chances for a deal acceptable enough to U.N. members to head off moves to convene an international meeting in Geneva to discuss the condition of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Israel objects to such a meeting, potentially involving as many as 164 countries, because it would raise the question of whether the United Nations has a legal right to interfere in Israeli administration of Arab territories captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Following the killings by Israeli security forces during a rock-throwing riot at Jerusalem's Temple Mount, the Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli actions and suggesting that Perez de Cuellar send an emissary to investigate the incident. Israel rejected the resolution, charging the riot was started by radical Arab agitators.

The council vote put a serious strain on U.S.-Israeli ties because of U.S. refusal to veto the resolution. Last week, the Bush administration and American Jewish leaders suggested that the Shamir government receive Aime under conditions that would be described not as an inquiry into the Temple Mount killings but as an ongoing discussion of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The United States is anxious to redirect the council's attention from the Palestinian issue to new measures against Iraq's occupation of Kuwait.

However, Israeli sources said that in accepting the idea, the Shamir government attached the condition that the United States get the Palestinian question off the Security Council's agenda, even if that means vetoing the Geneva meeting.

U.S. sources said the administration has not promised such a veto, but they indicated that a green light for Aime's visit would make it easier for the United States to resist council moves against Israel.

According to reports from Israel, Levy did not say a U.S. veto had been promised. But he was quoted as telling the parliamentary committee: "The Americans will take steps to remove the subject of the Temple Mount from the Security Council agenda. Cooperation will be restored between Israel and the United States in all matters connected with the Security Council."

However, diplomatic sources said it might be too late for the United States to head off further discussion of the Palestinian question without using its veto. The administration does not want to do that for fear of damaging its coalition with Arab states to oppose Iraq.

"The chances of this idea working at this stage are fifty-fifty or worse," said one U.S. official who asked not to be identified. "If it is going to work at all, the Israelis have got to keep their mouths shut, let the secretary general's emissary come and go without incident and not roil the waters. If they keep shouting that the visit has nothing to do with the Temple Mount incident, that will be regarded as unsatisfactory by the Security Council, and the issue will continue to fester. If Jerusalem wants this to go away, it must realize that silence is prudence."