Norman Podhoretz's Nov. 17 op-ed piece is an example of the short-sighted refusal by many "intellectuals" to consider both Palestinian and Israeli needs objectively. Apologies and rationalizations for Israel's intransigent behavior, of which Mr. Podhoretz's reasoning is typical, are among the greatest obstacles to a just peace in the Middle East.

By refusing to criticize or give advice to Israel (while graciously giving liberally of both to the Arabs), Mr. Podhoretz is following a dangerous and ironic path. He contends that only a citizen of Israel, whose home and life are at stake, has a right to speak out on an issue such as what to do with the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Jerusalem. "Giving advice from the safety of New York," he says, "seems to me presumptuous."

If that is the case, then would it not be equally presumptuous for a Nicaraguan-born American to assail the Sandinista government of Nicaragua for its policies? I doubt that Mr. Podhoretz would lend the same deference to Nicaragua that he gives to Israel. Not only do we have the right to watch closely and criticize objectively another country's actions, but we have the moral duty to force both Israel and the Arab states to account for their actions. If the billions of dollars every year in U.S. aid to Israel through which the occupation of the West Bank is financed buys anything, it buys U.S. taxpayers the right to question the policies of the most powerful actor in the Middle East conflict.

If Mr. Podhoretz loves Israel and desires peace for it as well as for the Palestinians, he should remember: our most valuable friends are not afraid to tell us when we are wrong. Peace is too great a price to pay for blind loyalty. MICHAEL J. HADDAD Washington