Bitterness here over Carter administration peace pressures, now depending inside the hard-line government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, is more genuine than tactical.
"On occasion the United States is actually tougher than the Arabs on us," one Begin insider told us. "It is not unusual to see an American position at least identical to that of the Arabs."
Although such talk serves to keep the heat on President Carter in hopes of lifting him out of his allegedly anti-Israel rut, the mood at the top suggests something more Ominous. It suggests a decision to fight Carter with all of Israel's resources and, if necessary, to defy him even at the risk of Israel's greatest asset: the essential U.S. connection.
"Look at me," Begin told us with a smile as he gobbled lunch during a recent session of the Israel parliament. "My health is good." Translated, that was noticed to Washington that the master of Israel politics is ready for battle.
His top political aides privately say he feels the Carter administration has used him badly. More to the point, they insist that so long as Begin is running Israel, language will not be found that can satisfactorily link the Israel - Egyptian settlement - desperately wanted by Begin - to any futuristic West Bank Palestinian solution, which Egyptian President Anwar Sadat must also have.
With Begin calling the shots, most of his lieutenants reflect his bunker mood. Moshe Arends, No.4 leader in Begin's controlling Herut Party and chairman of the Knessert's powerful defense committee, compares what Israel is asked to do on the West Bank to the United States disarming its intercontinental missiles. "Taking your missiles out of their silos might not result in a Soviet attack," he told us, "but it might."
Such hobgoblin analogies are routine these days, but however far - fetched, they probably reflect more than just political pressure tactics. For example, another Begin lieutenant told us: "The Arab world is built on sand. Israel cannot justify any long - range agreements because there is absolutely no promise of fulfillment."
That is a far cry from Golda Meir's old appeal: If only the Arabs could talk to Israel, what glorious things would be possible!
In highest government quarters today, Sadat - the man who talked to Israel - ridiculed and disparaged. Zalmud Shoval, a key adviser to Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, asked in The Jerusalem Post last week whether Sadat's "real" purpose is not peace at all but "through diplomatic maneuvers and power plays . . . to achieve what four aggressive wars against us" could not achieve - presumably, the destruction of Israel.
Against this onslaught, the efforts of Defense Minister Ezer Weizman to play a softer duet with Sadat have infuriated Begin and his inner circle. Weizman was humiliated last week when Begin posponed a Cabinet discussion on the Sadat - Weizman under this week's London meeting between Dayan and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel, which now supersedes the Sadat - Weizman chat.
Such bare - knuckle internal politics match the hard line on the United States and the Arabs. Begin and Sadat are on a collision course, partly as a result of their initial misunderstanding of each other's original purpose. Begin thought Sadat was really fishing for a separate peace with Israel when he came here last November; Sadat thought Begin would understand that no separate peace was possible without a tangle Israel commitment toward an acceptable future West Bank solution.
Future fouling this nest is Sadat's distruat of Dayan as tricky; Begin's anger at Sadat's splitting tactics aimed at his government; and Kamel's dismissal by Begin as a diplomatic ingenue.
But that pales alongside the bitterness directed against Jimmy Carter and his Mideast peace plans. Begin's men seem truly convinced that Carter has surrendered to the Arabs. No matter how preposterous that belief, it portends a no - win clash of possibly tragic dimensions for both Israel and the United States.
With regard to the accusation in Gloria Steinem's letter to The Post, published July 19, that we were wrong about former representative Bella Abzug's presence at the Manhattan rally for the Rosenbergs (which Abzug cosponsored), the truth is that Abzug's own New York office told us in a June 21 long - distance telephone talk that she had indeed attended the rally. We had no reason for divining at the time that the spokesman was wrong.