Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger yesterday strongly criticized Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights as "clearly a violation" of United Nations resolutions and the Camp David accords, and U.S. officials were considering support of a U.N. resolution calling on Israel to rescind its action.
Weinberger also held out the possibility that the Reagan administration would suspend once again its arms shipments to Israel, as it did after the Israeli bombing of a nuclear reactor in Iraq in June.
Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. summoned Israeli Ambassador Ephraim Ephron to his office late yesterday afternoon to tell him formally of United States' displeasure at the unexpected Israeli annexation of the strategic highland plateau that Israel seized from Syria in 1967 and has occupied since.
The Israeli ambassador emerged from his 1 1/4-hour meeting with Haig saying Israel maintained that its action did not violate U.N. Resolution 242. "We do not think so," he said. "Otherwise we would not have done it."
He said they discussed what the United States is planning to do in the United Nations but said Haig did not raise the possibility of a suspension of military shipments to Israel and that he did not ask for assurances on the matter.
At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and other members of the U.S. delegation conferred with diplomats primarily from Arab nations on the wording of a Security Council resolution critical of Israel's action.
According to an informed administration official, the resolution under discussion yesterday would call on Israel to rescind the annexation law that was approved in the Israeli Knesset Monday.
The United States is likely to support such a resolution, which is expected to have overwhelming support in the United Nations Security Council, the official said.
Kirkpatrick, however, was seeking to head off Arab efforts to include in the resolution a triggering mechanism that would invoke automatic sanctions against Israel if the annexation is not rescinded within a specified period, the official added. The United States probably will veto any resolution that includes sanctions or a triggering mechanism that would enact sanctions, the official said.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, accused Israel of undercutting U.S. Middle East peace efforts.
"It was a surprise and a shock to all of us," Percy said. "It is very difficult to work to bring peace to the region if our efforts are undercut by unilateral actions of this nature."
The annexation vote "is harmful to the peace process and creates a new complication for U.S. efforts to advance the Camp David process to which we are firmly committed," Percy said.
Rep. Paul N. McCloskey (R-Calif.) said Congress should withdraw this country's $2.2 billion in aid to Israel unless it rescinds the annexation.
"Until this Congress is willing to stand up to Israel and finally say 'This is the limit; you can go no further with U.S. funds,' Israel will continue to flout U.S. law and the clear intent of the Camp David accords," McCloskey said.
But Senate Republican Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. said he admires the way Israel acts "with so little hesitation and with such courage. And that was certainly the case here."
Weinberger, speaking on the "Good Morning America" show (ABC, WJLA), said Israel's action "is clearly a violation of the United Nations resolutions and therefore the Camp David agreement."
He was referring to Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which have been the basis for the Camp David accords. Resolution 242 calls upon Israel to return the lands it has occupied since 1967.
Weinberger added: "The president wants to be in a position to be able to bring peace to that region and he obviously can't do that if we're not viewed correctly as being equally concerned about violations of the law or aggressive action on any side wherever they occur. And that's exactly why we feel so strongly about this."
Weinberger held open the possibility that the United States may suspend shipment of military equipment to Israel, much as was done after the bombing of the Iraqi reactor. But he added: "I don't think there has been real consideration of it yet."
The United States has already delivered all but one of the 75 American-built F16 fighters it sold Israel. However, eight of the 15 F15 fighters it has ordered have yet to be delivered although the Pentagon said three are to be shipped in mid-January.