President Carter, in his talks with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, may find that Israel does not share the sense of urgency to reach a Middle East settlement that is felt in the Arab world or in Washington.
Israel is prepared to reconvene the Geneva peace talks and to take other steps. But President Carter, in the first of several meetings he has planned with Middle Easter leaders in the coming months, is not likely to find the Israelis very ready to make the kinds of concessions that the Arabs desire.
The Arabs view the peace efforts at a continuing climb. They have been telling the Americans in effect that if this climb does not achieve clear results soon, then the partcipants could slide rapidly backward toward renewed confrontation and perhaps even another war.
The Israelis view the situation in terms of a plateau on which they can remain and, if pressure builds, dig in, until it seems either necessary or opportune for them to move.
The Israelis are deeply suspicious of Arab intentions and they fear that the Arabs, having failed in war, see the peace moves as a new tactic to disarm them. The urgency that Arab leaders describe is viewed in Israel all too often as an attempt to blackmail the Americans and pressure the Israelis.
The idea of giving up territory to a Palestine Liberation Organization whose idea of a concession is only to postpone the destruction of Israel to a later stage is not considered here to be much of a bargain.
The Israelis state publicly that they favor an overall settlement, but in private they say they do not believe that a real peace can be achieved soon. Much more likely, in Israel's view, are further interim agreements such as the two with Egypt in the Sinai.
It is an article of political faith here that no Israeli government could advocate a full pullback to pre-1967 borders and stay in power. But Israel can and will agree to surrender chunks of territory in exchange for an end to, or even a lessening of, belligerence.
This, however, would not be a real peace and what the Israelis see as lacking in the Arab peace proposals is any commitment to normalize relations, such as extending diplomatic recognition, that would bind the Arabs to a final settlement.
Israeli planners have often said that they would take much more seriously any moves toward normalization, or even a lessening of the anti-Zionist hatred taught in Arab schools, than they do the vague pronouncements Arab leaders have been issuing.
There is little agreement here with the feeling in the West that there is a new spirit of cooperation that only needs encouragement to grow. More frequent is the attitude that if the Arabs want peace they must prove it by offering outright recognition of the Jewish state.
While the United States may view the rising influence of Saudi Arabia as a force of moderation upon the confrontation states, Israelis tend to view the Saudi connection and its financial power as having given the impoverished economies of Syria and Egypt a new option to make war.
There are advisers to the Israeli prime minister who view the next decade as a time of maximum pressure on Israel but, they argue, if Israel can hold fast, the West's dependence on Arab oil will begin to lessen by the 1980s as new sources of energy are developed. Meanwhile, Israel can buy time by reaching limited agreements with the Arabs - time needed to do such things as build up the economy and reverse diminishing immigration trends. Israelis note that the Middle East is so fluid that something else may distract Arab attention from pressuring Israel, as the Lebanese civil war did for more than a year.
The Arab states say that they have made great strides in forcing the PLO to take a more moderate stand but that they now need some move from the Israeli side.
Israel is committed to opposing any Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan.The bits of the occupied West Bank unofficially proposed by Israel as a demilitarized Jordanian province are so surrounded by Israeli settlements as to resemble what has been termed an "Arab Lesotho."
The Americans agree with Israel that the PLO cannot be a negotiating partner while its stated intention is the destruction of the state of Israel. Although the PLO may be prevailed upon to modify its National Covenant when the Palestine National Council meets in Cairo this weekend, Israeli planners do not believe that its clauses concerning the Jewish state will be repealed.
But Israeli recognition of any Palestinian state is so conditional and restricted that by demanding what amounts to unconditional surrender from the PLO Israel can be almost sure that no acceptable compromise will come. There is little Israel inclination to offer the kind of reciprocal gestures to what is seen here as marginal moderation from the Arabs.