Richard Cohen has once again done an injustice to Israel by contradicting the facts. In "Nations Built on Sand" {op-ed, Aug. 17}, he acknowledges the mercurial and hostile nature of certain Arab neighbors. He objects to the inaccurate and manipulative comparison of Kuwait and the West Bank, and he even points out that Israel gained the territories in a defensive war. Then he has the gall to hold Israel "partly responsible" for the latest conflagration in the Middle East, employing the old standby criticism of Israeli "intransigence" in the Palestinian conflict.

This is a terrible distortion. The tensions in the Persian Gulf are not erupting because of trouble in Israel. In any case, recent events in Iraq should make it even more clear why Israel has to be careful before simply giving back land. It is also more obvious why it must take the time required to negotiate for a lasting peace. A glance at a map verifies Israel's vulnerable position in the region and underscores the necessity of maintaining safe borders.

Especially at a time when lives are on the line and passions are enflamed it is distressing that Mr. Cohen perpetuates false and damaging information regarding an important U.S. ally.

RUTH J. MOSS Washington

In vain, I wait to see a well-written reply to the Iraqis and Jordanians who equate Israel's occupied territories with Iraq's occupations of Kuwait.

In frustration, I hope that my amateurish but fervent words will be printed. They may be better than nothing.

In 1967, Syria, Egypt and Jordan all attacked Israel and all were pushed back behind their original lines. Does it make no difference who attacks whom? Is there to be no penalty for attacking a neighbor?

When a cease-fire was imposed, the countries that had lost territory refused to talk with Israel. Finally, when Egypt agreed to come to the table, it got back every inch of land that had been captured.

Israel went into Lebanon only because that poor country was torn by many warring factions and had lost control of its border. Lebanon had no army or police that could keep terrorists from invading Israel. The security zone does that.

Anyone can leave Israel at any time. Palestinians use every ruse imaginable to get into the country because they have more opportunity, more freedom and a higher standard of living in Israel than in Jordan.

ANNE MEHLER Rockville