THAT'S A SHARP critique of Israeli policy, and of American indulgence of it, that Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan (the king's younger brother) offers on the opposite page today. It represents a point of view widely and deeply held in the Middle East among Arab "moderates." They want and even desperately need American friendship in many forms, but they find that the quality of American support for Israel limits their reach for it. This is because, though their ardor for Palestinian nationalism may be most often honored in the breach, their Arab sensibilities--not to speak of their internal political fragility--compel them to give the Palestinian grievance a higher billing in their public diplomacy than does the United States.

An appreciation of a friend's vulnerabilities, however, cannot be the occasion for a total free pass. In the crown prince's analysis, as in so many statements by Arab "moderates," there is a noticeable lack of-- shall we call it--a sense of history. He would have us believe that the Palestinians' misfortunes are entirely a matter of Israel's "expanionist" designs. Such a view passes too quickly over Jordan's own contributions: its rejection of the 1948 United Nations partition plan that would have given the Arabs of Palestine a state at the time the Jews of Palestine got theirs; its failure to serve Palestinian nationalism in the 19 years it occupied the West Bank; its gratuitous go-to-war decision of 1967, which resulted in Israeli occupation of the West Bank; its slaughter (many times Israel's in Lebanon) of Palestinians in Jordan in 1970; its expulsion of the PLO remnants to Lebanon, and so on. One does not expect officials of Jordan to parade these particular elements of its recent history. But could not a quiet sense of these realities temper its overall tone?

The point is not, we feel, insubstantial. A measure of flux is returning to the Middle East diplomatic scene. The question is whether it will be frozen by the familiar rigidities or turned to something better. If it is to be the latter, all parties will have some very difficult things to do. For the Arab moderates, it will be to help "deliver" the Palestinians. As the astute crown prince knows better than almost anyone, no Arab state will have a more crucial role in such a phase than Jordan, with its traditional and continuing links to the West Bank. Like the Saudis and other moderates, Jordanians say in their private, discreet fashion that they are ready to play their part. Their friends can only encourage them to show increasing evidence of it.