TEL AVIV, JAN. 20 -- As Israel took steps toward returning to a semblance of normalcy after a night without Iraqi missile attacks, a senior U.S. official met tonight with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to shore up Israel's commitment to a policy of restraint in the face of Iraqi attempts to draw it into the Persian Gulf War.

Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, who had met with Shamir immediately before last week's outbreak of the war to seek an agreement that Israel would not retaliate for any Iraqi strikes, also met with Defense Minister Moshe Arens and Foreign Minister David Levy.

After the meetings, Avi Pazner, senior aide to Shamir, said the special relationship between Israel and the United States has been significantly strengthened since the beginning of the gulf crisis. "There's something happening here," he said.

When asked whether agreements on Israel's sideline role in the conflict had held firm during today's talks, Pazner replied, "For the time being, but it can change at any moment." He made it clear that he meant that renewed attacks on Israel by Baghdad -- Tel Aviv came under Iraqi missile attacks Friday morning and Saturday morning -- would precipitate the change.

Pazner spoke almost ebulliently about what he termed "the very close relationship which is being built between Israel and the United States in the face of this situation. There's better cooperation and a very great deal of consultation and exchange -- a very good atmosphere."

Yosi Ben-Aharon, chief of the cabinet, told Israel radio that if Iraq resumes the missile attacks and Israel is forced to respond militarily, Washington will be consulted fully. "It has to be done in coordination with all the powers there in a way that will not widen the conflict, and not in a way that {only} relieves one's frustration," he said.

Shamir, in an Israeli television interview tonight, said, "This is not a question of Ping-Pong, where you hit me and I hit you."

Shamir said he had had "very amicable" talks with President Bush, adding, "These are discussions which indeed expressed the strategic cooperation between us and the United States, and especially regarding everything concerning the current conflict, but also with an eye to the future."

The prime minister's remarks suggested that Israel might seek a formal strategic pact with Washington in the wake of the gulf war. Former prime minister Menachem Begin and the Carter administration had discussed a formal strategic cooperation agreement years ago, but one was never signed.

Tel Aviv residents savored a night without missile attacks Saturday night, and after three days of staying close to their gas-resistant shelters, they rushed into the streets this morning to buy provisions, visit friends or walk along the Mediterranean shore.

Although schools and universities throughout the country remained closed, the government relaxed the state of emergency in sparsely populated southern Israel and allowed people to return to work.

Shamir's cabinet held its regular Sunday meeting and discussed the war and the missile attacks, but a cabinet spokesman said non-security issues were also discussed.

The cabinet authorized Levy to sign an agreement between Israel and the United States regarding the status of American crews accompanying the U.S.-supplied Patriot missile batteries that have been deployed to counter Iraq's Scud ground-to-ground missiles.

Defense chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron told Israeli military correspondents that Israeli crews would replace the Americans in two weeks.

The army command spokesman said the two U.S.-supplied Patriot antiaircraft and antimissile batteries have been deployed and made functional as of today. He said: "They are not a foolproof, magic solution, but they clearly are an improvement" on Israel's air defense system. "We do think this will beef up our ability to reduce the threat of incoming missiles."

Ministers arrived for the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem carrying the gas masks that have been issued to all Israelis. The Knesset, or parliament, announced that it will meet as usual on Monday despite the state of alert, a decision which was viewed as an attempt to convey an atmosphere of normalcy.

In the central and northern parts of the country, only workers in essential services were on the job, and others were urged to stay close to their homes.

The streets of Tel Aviv remained more deserted than in other cities today, and the Haaretz Hebrew daily newspaper reported that 10,000 people had moved from Israel's largest city to Jerusalem and another 2,000 had moved to Eilat, on the Gulf of Aqaba. The newspaper reported that 660 people in Tel Aviv have been evacuated from 500 missile-damaged homes and apartments, most of which sustained blown-out windows or doors.

Col. Ranan Gissin, an army command spokesman, said, "Life is gradually returning to normal, but as long as we do have mobile missile launchers around Iraq directed at Israel, we will remain in a state of emergency."

Gissin estimated that the Iraqi army still has at least 20 Scud mobile missile launchers spread along a 125-mile front in the western Iraq desert, within range of Tel Aviv, and he said Saddam's goal seems to be to prolong the war as much as possible -- a tactic which would depend on drawing Israel into the war by subjecting it to further missile attacks. Gissin said the military command was also concerned about Iraqi fighter jets kept in underground revetments, which could be brought out for bombing runs on Israel after the U.S. and allied air strikes on Iraq abate.