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U.S. and Israel Seeking Compromise on Cooperation with a U.N. Mission

Israel and the United States are seeking a compromise to end their dispute over Israel’s refusal to cooperate with a U.N. investigation of last month’s riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister David Levy confirmed Sunday.

He said no conclusions have been reached yet, but intensive contacts are under way in Washington and New York with a view toward bridging the gap between the two countries over the issue.

“We don’t have a policy of broigez (hostility) or of severing ties” with the United Nations, Levy told his fellow ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

He reminded them Israel has “a tradition” of not refusing to host U.N. emissaries.

The implication was that Jerusalem is now ready to consider receiving an investigatory team dispatched by U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

The Cabinet discussion took place amid indications that Washington wants to end the dispute with Jerusalem, which flared when the United States backed two U.N. Security Council resolutions opposed by Israel.

One instructed the secretary-general to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the Oct. 8 incident; the other condemned Israel’s rejection of the mission.

Levy insisted Sunday that any compromise must be entirely divorced from the first resolution, adopted four days after the Temple Mount incident, during which Israeli border police fatally shot at least 17 Arabs and wounded more than 130 others.

That resolution was “tendentious” and could not serve as a basis “for anything,” the foreign minister said.

SECURITY COUNCIL WATCHES VIDEOTAPE

But Israeli leaders apparently have come to the conclusion that the Security Council’s interest in the subject will not be exhausted by Jerusalem’s failure to cooperate.

The council has already begun discussions on a new resolution calling for a U.N. observer force to be sent to the territories to monitor Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian population.

The draft, sponsored by the Palestine Liberation Organization, also demands that Israel accept the applicability of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel has refused to do.

Members of the Security Council viewed a videotape on Friday presented by the PLO. Purported to have been filmed by a neutral, amateur photographer visiting Jerusalem at the time of the Temple Mount riots, it shows Israeli soldiers firing at Arabs near Al-Aksa Mosque amid screams and appeals for mercy over the mosque’s loudspeaker.

The Soviet ambassador, Yuli Vorontsov, called the tape damaging to Israel’s claim that the Arabs incited the violence.

Nevertheless, expectations at the United Nations are that the draft resolution that will emerge from the consultations will be substantially weaker than the PLO’s draft.

The U.S. desire to resolve the dispute with Israel is seen here as a reflection of Washington’s determination to refocus its full attention, and that of the international community, on the crisis in the Persian Gulf, where the prospect of war has escalated in recent days.

According to Israeli media reports, the terms of a compromise, which Levy confirmed is desired by both parties, already have been relayed by Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Zalman Shoval, and by American Jewish leaders who met with President Bush last Thursday.

The ambassador and the Jewish leaders reportedly are urging the government to accept a compromise.

CLASH BETWEEN SHARON AND SHAMIR

While it seemed clear that Levy wants to reach one, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s position is not known. Levy made a point of stressing that he personally instructs Israeli diplomats in the United States.

Israel rejected the original U.N. mission proposal, because the Security Council resolution calling for it seemed to undermine Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the entire city of Jerusalem.

The issue of diplomatic contacts over a compromise came up at the Cabinet meeting because of a harsh exchange between Housing Minister Ariel Sharon and Shamir that was unrelated to it.

Sharon, complaining about Jordan’s failure to prevent infiltrations of Israel across its borders, said he hoped his remarks would “not be leaked distortedly.”

“If you don’t leak them, they won’t be leaked at all,” Shamir said, to which Sharon retorted that they appeared to be “sliding into intra-party affairs” instead of sticking to the national agenda.

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