It is imperative that we redefine our relations with Isarel. The preasent lopsided relationship is harmful and dangerous. If we continue to support and protect Israel, equip it with the most powerful military force in the Middle East, resupply it when it is attacked, and defend it in international councils, we must insist on some control over its behavior. We cannot afford to write any more blank checks.

From the time of Israel's founding, the United States has served as its indulgent protector. In the past four years alone we have provided assistance exceeding $11 billion. Our current annual subsidy of over $2 billion (the equivalent of more than $3,500 a year for each Israeli family of five) is, along with the tobacco subsidy, one of our few sacrosanct budget items. In addition to official aid from American taxpayers, Israel receives massive sums from its generous American friends.

Since Israel is under America's sheltering wing, the world tends to hold us responsible for Israeli actions. Yet the last time an American president showed the wisdom and political courage to deter Israel from a disruptive and dangerous adventure was in 1956. Then President Eisenhower forced the Ben-Gurion government, kicking and screaming, to evacuate the Sinai it had secretly seized in a conspiracy with France and Britain. Since then we have done little but utter feeble protests summarily ignored. The record is a dismal one.

When I was in the State Department in 1963, American intelligence discovered a hidden nuclear installation at Dimona, in southern Israel. After protracted negotiation, our experts gained access to it. They found a French-designed reactor capable of producing enough plutonium to make one nuclear bomb a year. That was about 20 years ago. In spite of repeated requests, our government has never again been permitted an inspection or given any information about the Israeli nuclear arsenal.

In 1967, Israel once more caught us off guard when it attacked Egypt. In 1973, we saved Israel from defeat by our massive airlifts.

For 14 years, Israel has imposed an increasingly repressive military occupation of 1.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while, through its settlements policy, engineering a progressive land grab in the West Bank. It now controls one-third of both land and water resources and the process of absorption continues relentlessly. Since the Palestinian population increases twice as fast as the Israeli population, the policy is self-defeating. Israel cannot annex the occupied areas without compromising the dream of a Jewish national state unless it applies an apartheid policy to the Palestinians. If it tries, as some Israelis advocate, to push the Palestinians out, it will only increase the violence throughout the area.

Though the United States has ritually protested its illegal settlements policy, Israel has given us the back of its hand. Meanwhile, our apparent inability even to prevent settlements is weakening our influence and authority in the Middle East, helping to radicalize the Arab nations and increasing the potential for Soviet infiltration.

Now we are trying once again to pick up the pieces of our diplomacy, shattered by another in the weary cycle of Israeli surprises. Israel's action in sending American-provided planes to violate Jordanian and Saudi airspace and destroy a nuclear rector in Iraq clearly contravenes the rules under which we supplied our equipment -- that it would be used "solely for internal security" or "legitimate self-defense." For a nation with an atomic arsenal to destroy the nuclear facilities of another nation in order to maintain its nuclear monopoly makes a mockery of all international rules. Each national builds bombs to counter those of others, and preemptive strikes are jungle tactics. If Israel's action is accepted as "self-defense," will we sit by quietly if Iraq, with Soviet help, destroys Israel's nuclear arsenal in its own "self-defense"? After all, the Soviets might find such an action useful, since Israel nuclear missiles are reputedly capable of reaching Soviet soil.

The time has come to face reality. It is not enough to try to mitigate the political damage to our interests from the Israeli bombing; Israel must be made to respect the minimum conditions of a decent international relationship:

1. So long as we continue to provide Israel protection, sustain its economic life and supply it with powerful, sophisticated weapons, Israel should at least grant us its confidence and respect. We should make it an iron law that, from now on, our aid will instantly cease the moment Israel embarks without prior consultation on a reckless military adventure that offends and humiliates us and damages our interests.

2. We should promptly initiate a concerted effort with the other nuclear-supplying nations to keep bombs out of the chaotic Middle East. The first step in any such program is for Israel to get rid of its nuclear aresenal and stop making bombs. It is far too great a threat to world peace -- particularly since Israel can nerver sustain its nuclear monoply, no matter how many preemptive strikes it launches. The only effect will be to stimulate other nations to build bombs, and sooner or later the world will face deep trouble. Suppose a hard-pressed Israel were some day to drop a nuclear bomb on Baghdad or Damascus. Would the Soviets respond with a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv? What then would the United States do? Star World War III? This is not time for soft answers.