SOMETHING CURIOUS and unappealing is unfolding from the Israeli spying incident.
Though an offense was committed against the United States, some Israelis are making their country out to be the injured party. A burden is being put upon the United States for asking, or for asking too insistently, to get back the stolen documents and to interview the relevant officials. Days go by and the knots are slow to be untied in the crucial matter of transforming generous assurances of cooperation on the political level into specific arrangements at the working level. Far from moving to satisfy the American requests and to demonstrate forthrightness and full good faith, there is a tendency to sweep the matter under the rug.
Some Israelis even have in mind the particular "rug": the A-Israeli relationship. The overall connection between the two countries, it is suggested, is too valuable to be made to suffer for any excessively diligent pursuit of the facts in this affair. Too valuable to both countries, it is added. The Post's William Claiborne reported from Jerusalem the other day "the frequently encountered view here that the United States is as dependent on Israel for meeting its strategic objectives in the region as Israel is dependent on the United States for financial and political support. Or, as one official put it succinctly, 'We know the Americans don't give us all that money because they like our beautiful blue eyes.'
This is strange. There is in this country a broad consensus behind supporting Israel on moral and sentimental grounds. But there is a deep continuing argument over whether Israel is more of a strategic asset, a kind of grand pad for a launching of American forces in some ultimate regional confrontation with Soviet power, or more of a strategic liability, an impediment to the pursuit of American interests in the Arab world. It is not the kind of question that a prudent Israeli would want to see Americans debating at this moment. In any event, to think that America's strategic dependency on Israel is no less beyond question than Israel's financial and political dependency on the United States is dreaming. Israelis should not slight their "beautiful blue eyes" -- their appeal as a fellow democracy and a haven for Jews.
We observe that the people in Washington most troubled by Israel's performance in the Pollard affair include some of its truest friends. They do not fear that the relationship will be disrupted; nor should they. But they are baffled to see Israel putting domestic political considerations first, failing to realize the American dimensions of the case and appearing to try to take petty advantage of American good will.