The White House yesterday sharply denounced Israeli Ambassador Zalman Shoval, calling his criticism Thursday of U.S. aid efforts "outrageous and outside the bounds of acceptable behavior by the ambassador of any friendly country."

The extraordinary criticism of Shoval, issued late yesterday by White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, was a response to Shoval's accusation in an interview with Reuter that the United States was giving Israel the "runaround" on housing aid for Soviet Jewish immigrants.

Secretary of State James A. Baker III summoned Shoval to the State Department Thursday to reprimand him soon after he saw the Reuter story, officials said. President Bush "protested to {Israeli} Prime Minister {Yitzhak} Shamir by cable this morning," Fitzwater said in the statement, adding, "We deserve better from Israel's ambassador."

The angry and public dispute comes at a time when U.S.-Israeli relations had become closer than at any time during the Bush administration -- a warming that resulted from Israel's acquiescence to U.S. requests that it not retaliate for persistent Iraqi missile attacks following the start of the Persian Gulf War.

For much of Bush's first two years in office, however, relations between Washington and Jerusalem often were strained. A lengthy effort by Baker to broker negotiations to settle the dispute over territory between Israel and the Palestinians went nowhere because, U.S. officials have said, of Shamir's intransigence.

At a congressional hearing in June, Baker said that when Israeli leaders became serious about negotiating peace, they could call him. He gave the White House number.

The release of $400 million in housing loan guarantees for the expected 1 million Soviet Jews emigrating to Israel over five years has been stalled, after having been approved by Congress 10 months ago, because the United States has insisted Israel guarantee the money will not be used for settling those immigrants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

In testimony last week to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Baker said Israel still has not provided all the necessary clarifications of its promises not to settle Soviet Jews in the occupied territories. Shoval, according to Israeli sources, told Baker that Israel within the last few days had sent answers to U.S. questions about its housing plans.

Shoval also complained in the Reuter interview that Israel has received no compensation for losses incurred as a result of the gulf war and said Israel "demand{s} that these needs and necessities be addressed as swiftly as possible."

According to Israeli sources, Shoval told Baker on Thursday that the criticism "might have been too harsh." Israeli officials last night were taken aback by the administration's unusual public reprimand.

"We thought that basically it was over last {Thursday} night," embassy spokeswoman Ruth Yaron said. "At this point there is nothing we are going to say about it. It was only one interview yesterday {Thursday}," she said, "not a number of public statements."

A senior administration official in Washington said yesterday that Bush and Baker were "livid" Thursday night when they saw the text of the Shoval interview and that although the White House statement was issued in Fitzwater's name in Kennebunkport, Maine, where Bush is spending the weekend, it was written by senior officials and personally approved by Bush.

The senior official said that the White House planned to make the statement yesterday morning so that it would receive widespread attention, but that plan was overtaken by Iraq's declarations on Kuwait.

The harshness of the response by Bush and Baker, the official said, reflects their view that Israel is to blame for the delay in extending the housing loan guarantees. Israel receives $3 billion in U.S. aid, the most of any nation. Furthermore, the official pointed out, after the first Scud missiles were fired by Iraq at Israel, Washington immediately dispatched Patriot missiles and crews to Israel to help defend against the missile attacks.

The official said Bush and Baker were particularly outraged that Shoval would make such statements on the record, giving the remarks the appearance of having the imprimatur of the Israeli government. Staff writers Dan Balz in Kennebunkport and Ann Devroy in Washington contributed to this report.