WASHINGTON -- The United Nations Security Council moved toward passage last night of a U.S.-backed resolution condemning Israel for the police shootings that killed 19 Palestinians Monday, but negotiations continued over the wording.
The United States pressed for quick action on a resolution strong enough to prevent any weakening of the coalition arrayed against Iraq, but one that would not be so hostile to Israel as to require a U.S. veto.
U.S. officials privately accused the Palestine Liberation Organization, working through Yemen, Cuba and Malaysia, of trying to score a propaganda victory by maneuvering for a U.S. veto, which would drive a wedge between the United States and many of its allies in the Persian Gulf crisis.
The Bush administration's decision to join in the condemnation sparked anger and dismay among U.S. Jewish groups, with spokesmen saying that the Israeli crackdown had been provoked by radical Palestinians.
In a statement, Seymour D. Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, expressed "deep regret" at the loss of life and injuries on the Temple Mount but said responsibility lay with "Saddam Hussein, whose shrill calls for a 'jihad' or holy war against Israel incited the violence, and with the PLO and Islamic fundamentalists, who carried it out."
"The victim is taking the blame," Mr. Reich said in an interview, adding that the United Nations was focusing on the deaths and injuries without looking at the provocation.
"I think there is a lot of concern in the Jewish community about what seem to be double standards," said Gail Pressberg, co-director of the Center for Israeli Peace and Security, the Washington group backing Israel's moderate Peace Now movement.
As consultations continued at U.N. headquarters in New York, officials said they expected the final draft of the resolution to contain U.S. language saying that the Security Council "condemns the violence and particularly the excessive Israeli response." At issue was the Security Council's role in an investigation.
A British draft resolution, aimed at bridging the U.S. version and that of the non-aligned states, would back an investigative mission dispatched by the U.N. secretary-general, who then would report back to the Security Council. The PLO and its allies had pushed for the Security Council itself to dispatch investigators. Israel was expected to reject a Security Council inquiry as an in fringement on its sovereignty.
U.S. officials feared that a Security Council inquiry would prolong the controversy.
From Paris, France appealed to the world yesterday to support Palestinian aspirations and said it would be "catastrophic" if the Security Council failed to react firmly to the killings in Jerusalem.