THE visit that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir paid to the United States last week cleared the air remarkably. It showed where Mr. Shamir stands and where the government of the US stands.
And it showed that there is no bridging of the two.
Shamir took the position that when his country gave up the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in the Camp David agreements, it fulfilled all that is required of Israel under United Nations Resolution 242.
The President and the secretary of state of the US took the contrary view that UN 242 expects Israel to make a similar trade of land for peace with its other Arab neighbors.
This is drawing once again the distinction that American diplomacy drew back in the first Nixon administration, when William Rogers, then secretary of state, framed an American policy toward the Middle East on the formula that ``the US supports Israel, but not Israel's spoils of war.''
This became known as the Rogers Plan. It pledged the US to help sustain the original state of Israel within its pre-1967 boundaries, but not Israel plus permanent possession of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
This distinction is now revived by George Shultz, the secretary of state. He is asking Israel to enter into negotiations with its Arab neighbors for an exchange of land for peace, as intended under UN 242.
The Palestinians, Jordan, and Syria will never make peace on any basis other than the transfer back to Arab hands of the bulk of the occupied territories.
So we are back now to the Rogers Plan, under which the United States officially supports the return by Israel to the Arabs of most of the lands taken by Israel in the 1967 war. And we are back to that point with the consent of many of the most responsible and influential leaders of the American Jewish community, who did not, during the Shamir visit, rally to the Shamir cause.
This does not mean that the US is going to apply sanctions against Israel to pressure it to agree to give up occupied territories. It does relieve the US of the implied obligation to pay the cost of making it possible for Israel to hold the occupied territories indefinitely.
Forward-thinking people of both Arab and Israeli communities now think in terms of a future economic association of Israel, Palestine, Gaza, and Jordan in a common market.
Such a community could be economically self-sufficient, hence independent of the US. It would not need to be subsidized.
Shamir's Israel, clinging to all of the occupied territories, could never be independent of the US.
What Mr. Shultz has done by launching his peace plan has been to push Jews in Israel and Israel's supporters in the US to face up to the fact that there is no peace down the Shamir road, but instead permanent dependence on a US subsidy that someday might be granted less willingly and less generously.
Mr. Shultz does not need to do anything more for the moment.
It is enough that the people back in Israel mull over in their own minds the choice they face.
They can make peace, make friends of their Arab neighbors, and become independent of the US.
Or they can follow Shamir down the no-peace road and become increasingly dependent on a US which, to quote The Economist, ``is growing steadily, but politely, less certain why it is a friend of Mr. Shamir's sort of Israel.''