Israel, one of the first noncommunist countries to recognize China, has yet to take official note of the dramatic announcement that Peking and Washington have agreed to normalize relations.
While the rest of the world may not be immobilized with suspense awaiting Israel's reaction, the lack of official comment here is connspicuous as an unspoken commentary on the government's perception of American commitments ot overseas allies.
The unofficial commentary is more explicit.
"So now we know how the United States honors its treaty commitments, if Vietnam weren't proof enough. Are we supposed to rejoice along with everone else? We're even smalle than Taiwan," said an aide to Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a bitter reaction following the anouncement.
Another senior Israeli official said in a conversation immediately after the announcement Dec. 15 by President Carter that the United States was severing formal relations with Taiwan: "It cannot be welcome news here. As long as Carter has adopted a Saudia Arbian policy, why sould we be any more important than Taiwan?"
Israeli newspapers, pickinng up on that theme, failed at the "betrayal" of Taiwan and suggested nervously that Israel may be next in line.
"One can point to the U.S. president's decision . . . as proof of the inconsistency of the Americans, and of a cynicism which does not shrink fromm betraying an ally," commented Haaretz, the independent Hebrew morning newspaper.
Yedioth Aharonoth, another independent Hebrew daily, compared the United States' "high-handed diplomacy" to that of dictatorships "for which moral values have no significance."
Hatzofeh, affiliated with the Nation Religious Party, warned that the United States is not chary of breaking longstanding commitments, adding, "There are serious doubts about Carter's stand on Israel since he makes decisions according to economic and military interest."
Privately, some members of the Isareli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee said they fear U.S.-China ties will inevitably draw the Carter administration closer to the Arab world to prevent increased Soviet influence in the Middle East.
Several Cabinet ministers asked that the U.S decision be put to a full Cabinet debate, but Begin turned aside such moves, sources said.
In fact, the government seems to have gone out of its way to avoid being drawn into a discussion of the U.S.-China agreement.
At a recent luncheon with foreign reporters, Begin sidestepped questions on the subject, saying. "I would not make any such comparisons [between Taiwan and Israel]. Israel is not Taiwan, and I would prefer not to comment on Taiwan."
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, queried almost daily on the subject, said at one point, "I know some people have attempted to make the analogy, but I think it is a false analogy. I don't think much will be gained by our entering the debate, because no matter what we say, it will be misinterpreted."
Israel was one of the first noncommunist states to regognize the Peking government, in January 1950, just three months after establishment of the Peoples Republic of China.
Six months later, Israel sent word to Peking through diplomatic channels that it was interested in establishing full diplomatic ties with the new government, but because of American objections it withdrew its offer.
Four years later, China offered to establish formal relations with Israel, and in September 1954, then-premier Chou En-lai announced the offer in the Peoples Congress. However, at the urging of the U.S. State Department Israel rejected the offer and instead sent a trade representative ot Peking.
Political observers here, looking back on that era, have commented wistfully that the israeli rejection opened the door to tentative Chinese-Arab relations. Some have complained in retrospect that Isreal, at theat time a six-year-old state with little foreign policy savvy, was manipulated by the United States, and might have been better off establishing formal ties with China.
However, since then Israel has been a significant supplier of arms to Aiwan and has developed strong engough trade relations with the Nationalist government to have some empathy for its being severed from United States protection.
Some Western diplomats here view the unofficial Israeli reaction as symptoms of "paranoia," and suggest it is an offshoot of a slump in U.S.-Israeli relations following the faltering of the Egyptian-Israeli peace process.
"The people who see this an an ominous sign for Israel have a somewhat distorted view of their own role in the overall United States policy toward nearly a billion people. This [Israel] is a country of about 3 1/2 million people, about as many people who line up at a bus stop in Peking every morning to go to work," said one diplomat.