WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration, entering its second week of trying to control damage from the Temple Mount killings, was unable yesterday to get Israel to admit a U.N. investigative delegation except as "tourists," let alone cooperate with it.
The standoff threatened another collision between Israel and the United Nations Security Council and a further distraction from U.S. efforts to keep world attention focused on Iraq's annexation of Kuwait.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Johanan Bein, said last night that the three envoys, due to leave tonight, would be allowed to visit Israel as tourists but would not be received officially.
"If they want to get in as tourists, they can come," he said. "If they come, they can see anybody -- Israel is a free country. But a delegation from the secretary-general will not be received by the government of Israel."
The Security Council voted unanimously Friday to endorse a mission sent by U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar and requested that he submit a report by the end of this month.
A separate statement read by David Hannay, the British envoy presiding over the Security Council, said Mr. Perez de Cuellar planned to make "findings and recommendations to the council on ways and means for ensuring the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation."
U.S. diplomats had pressed for the mission to be dispatched by the secretary-general, rather than the Security Council, knowing Israel would refuse to cooperate with a mission from the council.
Officials generally assumed that Israel would at least grudgingly accept a mission from the secretary-general. As one put it, "He can go everywhere."
That assumption came into serious question following the Israeli Cabinet's decision Sunday to refuse cooperation with the commission.
President Bush, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Texas, said, "We want to see that U.N. resolution fully implemented. We were part of it, and we think it's the right step."