By way of illuminating an aspect of the tormenting "Palestinian" issue that you don't hear all that much about, allow me to introduce three distinguished figures from around here on the Israeli-occupied West Bank: Ibrahim Dakkak, the chairman of the West Bank engineers' union and trade association and frequent participant in past international gatherings of engineers. Akram Haniya, newly elected chairman of the West Bank journalists' union and editor-in chief of the East Jerusalem daily newspaper, Al Shab. Dr. Gaby Baramki, acting president of Bir Zeit University for the past seven years.

Pillars of their communities, right? Wrong, by the standards of the Israeli occupation authorities. Engineer Dakkak is under "town arrest." Forbidden to leave Jerusalem even to visit relatives in Bethlehem and confined to his home from sundown to dawn, he was picked up a while ago and briefly imprisoned.

You find editor Haniya in a cramped fourth-floor walkup "office" here , more than 10 miles from his East Jerusalem newspaper, which he runs largely by telephone. He has been under "town arrest" for 18 months and was recently released after 31 days in a military jail. His cell was not much more than 12 feet long and 4 feet wide, and he shared it at times with as many as three fellow inmates. Given nothing to read, he was allowed out only once a week for a shower. He had no lawyer for six days, bail was refused, a total of six hours of interrogation was devoted not to specific charges but to "political attitudes" (all this by his account).

The main rap against Haniya and Dakkak is the same: membership in a national guidance committee established by prominent West Bank municipal leaders and professional people in opposition, ostensibly, to the Camp David "autonomy" framework for the West Bank. The committee is now largely incapacitated by a calculated campaign of "town arrests" that effectively make it impossible for the group to meet.

Why? Because Israeli occupation authorities see it as "extremely destructive," in the words of Menahem Milson, a former professor of Arab studies who now heads the Israeli government's new civil administration for the West Bank.

The guidance committee, Milson says he has reason to know, "is the arm of the PLO in this area and behind incitement and calls for murder."

Baramki is marked in a different way. His university was closed down for two months when violent demonstrations broke out last November and students stoned Israeli security forces. He is on stern notice that he will be held strictly accountable for any more student disturbances--off campus and on.

Three case histories, each inherently controversial (the transient visitor is ill- equipped to weigh every contradictory allegation, let alone "secret evidence"). But each illustrates Israel's cruel and, to some degree, self-imposed dilemma. By its own definition of its "security" requirements, it cannot afford to let go of the West Bank territory, as it is doing with the nearly vacant Sinai desert in its peace treaty with Egypt.

But neither can Israel hold on to it without somehow "taming" an unruly and resistant Palestinian Arab populace. For this, the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin can see no alternative to rough repression, not just of active terrorists but of Palestinian causists who in every other respect would be counted as respected citizens.

Assuming no negotiated solution-- which is what Israeli policy seems increasingly to assume--the obvious question is whether it will work. The Palestinians tell you resistance will only stiffen, others that it will wither.

But suppose that, after a fashion, the Israeli occupation policy works. Can a huge Arab population of some 1.2 million people (the West Bank plus Gaza) be fitted into the concept of a Jewish state? At this point, in most speculation, a "South African" analogy is conjured up.

Or suppose it doesn't work. Here you get the "Ulster" analogy. For how long can Israel reconcile cherished and traditional values with "security" measured in arbitrary confinement, censorship, bans on assembly, reprisals (the flattening of homes) against provocations (stones or home-made gasoline bombs thrown at Israeli military vehicles) that are not exactly eye-for-an-eye?

The answer almost has to be that, for any protracted period, it can't. And yet, this is the aspect of the "Palestinian" problem one hears the least about. You can see what Israel is doing to the West Bank. What you can only sense is what the West Bank is doing to Israel.