JERUSALEM, NOV. 19 -- A statement by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that appears to link Israel's continued occupation of captured territory with mass immigration drew sharp criticism from his political opponents here today and angry protests from the Arab world.

In a meeting with members of his right-wing Likud Party Sunday night, Shamir said that "the past leaders of the party left us a clear message to keep the land of Israel from the {Mediterranean} sea to the Jordan {river} for future generations and for the mass immigration and for the Jewish people, most of whom will be gathered into this country."

The remark drew protests today from the opposition Labor Party and the Egyptian government, which summoned Israel's ambassador in Cairo and accused Shamir of "expansionist intentions." Critics said the prime minister's statement implied that Israel needed to retain the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip -- which, along with Israel, lie between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River -- in order to settle the thousands of Soviet immigrants now arriving in the country.

The prospective settlement of Soviet immigrants in the territories has been one of the most troublesome issues in Israel's foreign relations since last January, when Shamir said that "a big immigration" required "a big Israel" because "we need the space to house all the people."

Following a storm of protests from the Arab world at that time, Shamir partially retracted his words and his government later promised the United States and Soviet Union in writing that immigrants were not being directed to the territories. About 120,000 Soviets have arrived in Israel this year, but the government says that only a few hundred have moved to the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

When Israeli reporters approached Shamir after his speech Sunday night and asked whether he was reviving the immigrant controversy, the prime minister denied it. The Jerusalem Post today quoted him as saying: "There is no connection whatever between our maintaining the territorial integrity of the Land of Israel between the sea and the Jordan River -- which is a vital security necessity for the State of Israel -- and the mass immigration, which is the fulfillment of the greater Zionist dream."

Nevertheless, domestic critics seized on the issue today. "In a few hours every nation will know this declaration and will probably respond," said Chaim Ramon of the Labor Party, which introduced a motion of no confidence against the government on the issue in the parliament. Ramon added: "I'm calling on the prime minister to be quiet for heaven's sake. . . . He is risking the chances of the immigration."

In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid called in the Israeli ambassador to demand an explanation of Shamir's remark. The Foreign Ministry said: "Egypt rejects in its totality . . . Shamir's comments, which indicate his expansionist intention to occupy territories belonging to someone else, and this cannot help reach a peaceful settlement to the Palestine issue."