Britain and America may have to dilute their demands if they are to persuade the Security Council to consider a new resolution. Britain's Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, talked of 'offering new language', an altogether less belligerent approach than the run-up to the meeting in November when resolution 1441 was adopted.
It seems likely that the US-UK strategy will rely on the threat in a paragraph at the end of 1441: 'The council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations.' All members of the council have already voted in favor of this.
Whatever the form of words eventually accepted, the US and UK are still certain to meet opposition from Europe and in turn the hawks in the US government will condemn those urging a veto of early action in Iraq. So it is a good moment to remember America's own record of vetoing resolutions critical of Israel.
To raise this at any time, but especially now, will inevitably be considered to be anti-American and anti-Israeli, possibly even anti-Semitic. But it is none of these things. There is long-term legal and political inconsistency between the treatment of Israel and other countries in the region, and the greatest weakness in America's case on Iraq is that it shows no signs of acknowledging its history of favoritism.
In the past 30 years, America has vetoed 34 resolutions that criticize Israel and seek to restrain its behavior. These failed most recently in a demand for the restoration of land seized from the Palestinians and a cessation of construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Even in the relatively minor case from November 1990, when the UN wanted to send three Security Council members to Rishon Lezion, where an Israeli gunman had shot seven Palestinian workers, the US vetoed the wishes of the other 14 countries on the council.
Over three decades Arabs have come to understand that the cards are stacked against them. What is important, but rarely understood, in the United States is that each case against Israel seems just as compelling in Arab eyes as the need for Saddam's disarmament is to George Bush.
Now that America wants the permanent members of the Security Council to vote for a new resolution, or at least seek a definition of 'serious consequences' in 1441 as meaning military action, Europeans should remind the US of this appalling record of bias and seek to link the discussion about Iraq to the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
In a way, the resolutions stifled by Washington in the past 30 years were unnecessary because so many of the issues raised are covered by a resolution which was supported by the US in November 1967 - the famous resolution 242, which underlines that Israel must return territory acquired in war.
This is still active, but 35 years on the Israelis remain in material breach of 242, a breach made all the more flagrant by continued building and settling in the occupied territories. Despite Israeli denials, the message is clear. Israel is not prepared to exchange conquered territory for peace and would appear to prefer to become embroiled in a dirty war with terrorist groups rather than give up a square inch to the Palestinians.
Israeli defiance of 242 and the subsequent resolutions passed with US help that reaffirm it have been a chronic destabilizer in the Middle East. The Israelis will not shift and the US has done almost nothing to make them. In fact, its financial and military support has achieved the opposite of compliance. If France or Russia had undermined Security Council resolutions against Iraq to this degree, we can only imagine the indignation and rage of men such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
So Americans want it both ways. That is not unusual for the world's dominant power, but to claim that a disarmament of Saddam should be undertaken primarily to secure peace in the region is to neglect the permanent threat to peace caused by Israel's intransigence. There are many good arguments for toppling Saddam, especially the treatment of his 23 million subjects, but to Arabs they will not carry much weight until the West squares up to Israel and insists on compliance of 242.
Those who make policy know this is right, but say it is also unrealistic. Israel has nuclear weapons and it is a fact of life that America is forced to intervene in the Middle East to prevent challenges to Israel's regional dominance. It would, of course, be far more dangerous for Israel to act overtly on its own behalf as the great military power that it now is.
If America is to be Israel's chaperone and agent, it cannot also be its policeman. The role must fall to others, as Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, perhaps came near to admitting on the BBC Iraq debate. He said that Israel-Palestine issue should be addressed with much more 'energy' after any war against Iraq. That energy is unlikely to come from America, partly because of the Jewish lobby, although its influence is sometimes exaggerated, but mostly because it is powerless to control the state to which it so uniquely obligated.
Although discussions in the Security Council over the next week will focus on Iraq, Israel should be brought into the picture. The European are in a position to insist on linkage - joint resolutions that address both Iraq and Israel and have equal force in the eyes of the world. That way regime change might be achieved in Iraq without the appalling consequences in the Arab world that are widely and rightly feared. Compliance in Israel is just as much a requirement as it is in Iraq.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003