After having becoming used to the carefully considered and cautious pronouncements of the Kissinger years, Israelis are developing a nervous twitch waiting for whatever it is President Carter and his more free-wheeling entourage are going to say next about the Middle East.
Thus, even though most of what President Carter had to say last night in Clinton, Mass., conformed with Israeli views, his use of the perilous code word "homeland" for the Palestinians caused some Israelis to jump out of their skins.
Israel opposes a separate Palestinian state and the word "homeland" often is taken to mean just that.
On careful consideration, however, official Jerusalem found nothing so objectionable in what Carter said. Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, responding to reporters' questions, pointed out that Carter had put much of the burden for the Palestinian problem on the Arabs and had blamed the Palestinians for not recognizing Israel.
Allon also noted that President Carters has made no mention of the Palestine Liberation Organization in his reference to a homeland and that Carter had not, in fact, said that a Palestinian homeland should be a separate, independent state.
Israeli policy is that a Palestinian homeland should be established in the context of a peace treaty and the Palestinians could have a homeland politically linked to Jordan.
Allon pointed out that Carter had used the word "homeland" in the context of refugees. This, he said, was the language of U.N. Resolution 242, which Israel accepted and the PLO rejected.
Nevertheless, there was the nagging worry over what Carter may have meant. Allon said he would not be surprised if an official clarification came soon.
Prime Minister Yiztzhak Rabin, speaking in Tel Aviv, said that he would have been "much happier if President Carter had used another expression."
Israelis are frankly worried that their relations with the Carter administration may be getting off to a bad start.
The Israelis were upset to see PLO representatives being invited to meet Carter at the Uited Nations. They were upset that Carter had not been impressed with Rabin, and it is assumed here that this came from the horse's mouth.
Israelis were upset that the refusal to allow the sale of Kfir jets to Ecuador means that Israel is to be kept forever on a short leash and not allowed to develop its arms industry to the fullest extent. Israelis were also concerned that the new administration had refused to honor President Ford's promise to give Israel powerful concussion bombs.
None of these things taken by itself is overly alarming, and Allon said today that first reaction to Carter's pessimistic. Nonetheless, Israelis are waiting with apprehension for further administration statements on the Middle-East.