WASHINGTON -- After a weeklong power struggle between the United States and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved last night a resolution condemning Israel and endorsing a U.N. mission on the safety of Palestinians in the occupied territories, diplomats said.
The document condemns "especially" acts of violence by Israeli security forces that led to 19 Palestinian deaths on Jerusalem's Temple Mount Monday after a rock-throwing barrage on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall.
Separately, it expresses alarm at the violence generally and deaths and injuries to civilians and innocent worshipers.
The resolution avoids a key PLO goal: dispatching a Security Council mission to make specific recommendations on ways of ensuring the safety of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
The PLO was described as trying to pave the way for a peacekeeping force in the region that would have been opposed by Israel, opening the possibility of future U.N. sanctions against Israel.
Instead, it endorses a mission dispatched by U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and requests that he submit a report on his findings and conclusions by the end of October.
A separate statement by the secretary general says he will investigate the recent tragedy in order to ensure the security and well-being of civilians in the territories, "noting always" that the prime responsibility for this lies with the occupying power, namely Israel.
This could well lead to future U.N. action on the Palestinians. But for the moment, it removes the Security Council from direct involvement.
Fearful of seeing its carefully assembled anti-Iraq coalition torn apart, the Bush administration lobbied strenuously all week for a resolution that was not so hostile to Israel as to require a U.S. veto, which would have caused severe political problems for the Arab governments aligned with the United States.
The Security Council's turmoil brought a weeklong distraction from American efforts to maintain U.N. resolve against Iraq and find new ways of tightening the screws.
And it means that the Palestinian problem has recaptured much of the world attention that it lost when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
"The Iraqis are wandering around smiling quite a lot," a Western diplomat at the United Nations said early yesterday.
In the last two days, President Bush called French President Francois Mitterrand to stop France from wavering and tried unsuccessfully to reach Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a member of the so-called non-aligned block of nations.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III yesterday called the foreign ministers of Colombia and Ethiopia, and his deputy, Lawrence Eagleburger, lobbied Yemen.
In the end, most of the non-aligned states broke with the PLO in support of a compromise negotiated by British U.N. Ambassador David Hannay, this month's Security Council president.
This showed they were "not the mindless tools of single-issue interests and were distancing themselves from the most extreme ends," a U.S. official said last night.
Had the United States gone along with a Security Council mission to the occupied territories, this would have "put the Security Council right in the middle of the peace process" and it "would never get back to the gulf crisis," a senior State Department official said yesterday.
Senior policy-makers oppose efforts to resume the peace process right now, arguing that the gulf crisis is bringing such rapid and drastic changes in regional power arrangements that no lasting deal could be reached.
It would also be seen as a reward to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who has demanded a diplomatic settlement of all the region's struggles.
The resolution was a bitter blow to Israel, a close ally of the United States, which has shown widely applauded restraint during the gulf crisis.
Jewish leaders in the United States have reacted angrily at what they see as an abandonment of a longtime friend for the cynical aim of maintaining America's alliance with Arab states.