SYRIA, aggrieved by the Golan annexation, has gone on an emotional tear at the United Nations and is pushing a resolution so extreme that up to a half-dozen other Security Council members besides the United States may decide to sit it out. It is as though President Assad had answered a plea from Prime Minister Begin for a demonstration of Syrian frenzy in order to remind the world how futile it is for Israel to be expected to make peace with such a state. So in that forum the Israelis may get off scot- free.
Syria's spate of diplomatic self-mutilation, however, is not the end of the matter. The reality remains that, notwithstanding its promise in United Nations resolutions and elsewhere to put up territory to trade for peace, Israel has decided in the instance of Syria to pocket the territory instead. That makes a farce out of its renewed negotiating invitations to Syria.
What people inside and outside Israel are wondering now is whether the Golan annexation was a dry run to move toward outright annexation of the West Bank. Intent aside, Israelis might come to see it as that if the Golan costs were not too high. That is where there is room for worry. Having been reminded that he had not explictly warned against annexation of Golan, President Reagan offered a first explicit warning against annexation of the West Bank late last month. But the relative mildness of the concrete steps he took--suspending the strategic memorandum and some financial favors-- did not particularly reinforce his warning.
The Israeli foreign minister, moreover, has since stated Israel's insistence to "protect at all costs its independence of decision and action" on 1)boundaries and on 2)"the most effective ways of safeguarding our security." What else, one might ask, is there?
The minister grants the United States' "right to disagree." He protests, though, what he sees as a Reagan pattern of "punishments in reaction to every manifestation of disagreement." The United States is held strictly to the fine print when it comes, say, to the procedure of suspending the strategic memorandum. Israel, however, can ignore its political obligations to the United States. Mr. Begin appears to believe that all this will somehow redound to Israel's advantage.
The circumstances in which these larger differences can be eased are not in view. That leaves the United States and Israel, and Egypt, focused narrowly on the Palestinian autonomy talks. Perhaps, for now, that is enough. The administration is considering how it might propel these talks along to a satisfactory conclusion.
What is satisfactory? The Israeli standard is simply an agreement that Egypt agrees to. For that it asks Washington to induce the Egyptians to "negotiate." The United States, however, seems to be coming to accept the Egyptian standard, which is an agreement that starts drawing Palestinians in. The Israelis reject that standard, claiming it gives the Palestinians a veto. They, the Israelis, want the veto. But Camp David, which Mr. Begin signed, promised the Palestinians a role in this phase. The United States should do what it must to see that they get it.