The Israeli invasion of Lebanon has damaged seriously the U.S. image here, ending a four-year honeymoon in a relationship built on the American-sponsored Camp David peace agreement.
The Egyptian government, which receives almost $2 billion a year in economic, military and food aid from the United States, has been careful not to criticize Washington publicly -- but the signals of disillusionment because of alleged U.S. support for Israel are widespread.
The weekly magazine Rose el Youssef captured the Egyptian feeling that the United States is working in collusion with Israel in a cartoon that showed an American flag with one alteration. In place of the 50 stars there was an unflattering caricature of Menachem Begin, prime minister of Israel.
Despite U.S. denials of any advance knowledge of the June 6 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, it would be hard to find an Egyptian who does not think that it was worked out between then-secretary of state Alexander M. Haig Jr. and Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.
Butros Ghali, minister of state for foreign affairs, came close to making such a charge in an interview last night. "Was there not an agreement between Haig and Sharon about the invasion of Lebanon?" he asked, and then answered himself, saying, "I have no proof."
Asked whether he suspected such an agreement, he answered with emphasis, "Not I -- everybody" suspects it. There are reports that strong words have been used in the almost daily diplomatic exchange between the United States and Egypt -- often described as one of Washington's best friends in the Arab world -- over the situation in Lebanon.
The exchanges, however, are considered an improvement. While Haig was still secretary of state, Egypt was not kept informed regularly on the peace efforts of special U.S. envoy Philip C. Habib.
Although Ghali would not go so far, Western diplomats said Egyptian officials have expressed skepticism that much will come out of the Reagan administration's reexamination of the Palestinian issue in the aftermath of the Lebanon invasion.
Some Egyptian analysts are concerned that once the nightly television pictures of the Israeli destruction of Beirut disappear, President Reagan will lose interest and be diverted by the midterm U.S. elections.
One Western diplomat said there is "definite hostility" over the Lebanon issue because there is a basic disagreement between Cairo and Washington on how to proceed. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has pressed for the United States to link some progress on a Palestinian settlement to the Israeli-forced evacuation from Beirut of guerrillas of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
That would allow the PLO to salvage some diplomatic gain from the military loss in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and, in the Egyptian view, could turn PLO leader Yasser Arafat away from military confrontation and toward a political solution.
The United States has refused to broaden the issues at stake in Beirut, however, saying Israel would then reject an agreement and unleash a final assault on Beirut.
For the time being, Egypt and the United States have agreed to disagree, but Ghali said Washington has "missed a golden opportunity" to advance a settlement. Despite these differences, officials, diplomats and analysts all point out that U.S.-Egyptian relations are still on track in areas outside the Palestinian issue, including development strategies and opposition to the Soviet Union and Libya.
A Palestinian settlement, however, "is the first priority in the region," Ghali said, so U.S. relations with Egypt and the rest of the Arab world are linked to progress in the peace process.
Until now, he said, the Reagan administration never has given high priority to the Palestinians and did not add anything new to the Carter administration's Camp David policy. Instead, Haig approached the Middle East on a global basis, seeking to limit Soviet influence.
"We don't know what the new U.S. position will be," Ghali said, but he warned that unless some progress is made in the next few months the whole region will be subject to "disturbances, destabilization and conflict."
The Israeli invasion, the official said, had reversed the whole process started by the late president Anwar Sadat when he visited Jerusalem in 1977, proclaimed "no more war" and said that negotiations should be used to solve disputes.
"Five years ago, there was hope," Ghali said. "Now there is no more hope. Israel has practically annexed the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On what basis can we have any kind of hope?"
The invasion of Lebanon has caused great disillusion in the public attitude toward Washington, he said, because Egyptians feel "deceived by the United States." He complained that the United States never has condemned the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Israelis have "destroyed an Arab capital. They have killed thousands and thousands of people. And nothing is said about this."
Saying he "certainly expects more difficulties in U.S.-Egyptian relations," he added that Egypt would do its best to overcome them, especially because Washington's participation is essential to the peace process.
The government-guided press has spoken bitterly about alleged U.S. inaction in the face of Israeli bombing raids. "The fact that a word from the American president has been sufficient to stop Mr. Begin from going ahead with his annihilation scheme," Al Gomhouria said, "merely indicates the kind of leverage at the disposal of the U.S. but which it has been reluctant to use for the benefit of the thousands of helpless civilians maimed or slaughtered by Israel in the past few weeks."
An editorial in Al Akhbar asked why the United States had not acted earlier and then suggested an answer: "It had wished to weaken the Palestinians enough to deprive them of negotiating power at any future attempt to reach a settlement."
Even though intellectuals voice similar criticisms of Israel and the United States, there have been only two, abortive, attempts to stage demonstrations in Cairo.