MINNEAPOLIS – Presbyterian leaders strongly backed a proposal Friday calling for the U.S. government to end aid to Israel unless the country stops settlement expansions in disputed Palestinian territories. The move was immediately criticized by Jewish groups.

But other aspects of the report on Middle East issues adopted by delegates of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) earned qualified praise from pro-Israel organizations, which have long taken issue with various Presbyterian statements on Middle East peace.

The report is meant as a guide for the denomination’s more than 2 million members in many facets of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. It was approved with 82 percent of the vote during the church’s annual general assembly in Minneapolis.

Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said he still took issue with major aspects of the report, but said it contained “important signals” that could lessen long-standing tension between Presbyterians and pro-Israel Jews. He said it strengthens support for Israel’s right to exist and removes comparisons of Israeli policy to apartheid.

The Anti-Defamation League said the report managed to “avoid a rupture with Jewish people, but bias against Israel continues.”

The Protestant denomination’s relationship with Jewish groups took a hit in 2004, when its general assembly voted to authorize “phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel” because of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. That stance has since been softened, and this year convention delegates voted down an amendment to the Middle East report that would have put divestment back on the table.

Also at the convention, delegates voted Thursday for a more liberal policy on gay clergy but decided not to redefine marriage in their church constitution to include same-sex couples. Approval of both measures could have made the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one of the most gay-friendly major Christian denominations in the U.S.

Even the more liberal stance on gay clergy faces more debate before it can become church policy. A majority of the church’s 173 U.S. presbyteries must approve it. Two years ago a similar measure was sent out to presbyteries but died when 94 of them voted against it.

On Friday, delegates voted down a motion to reconsider the marriage vote. It needed a two-thirds majority to come back to the floor and got just 40 percent.