President Carter says he will invite Menachem Begin, leader of the victorious right wing Likud Party in Irael's national elections last week, to visit Washington for talks after Begin is officially designated to form a new Israeli government.
But the President told a group of visiting editors he does not intend to communicate with Begin until Israel's president deisignates him as the man to assemble the new governing coalition.
In his public comment on the May 17 Israeli elections, Carter said he hopes " . . . that the election of Mr. Begin will not be a step backward toward the achievement of the peace."
Begin seems likely to bcome Israel's next prime minister despite the announced refusal of the Labor Party, which governed the Jewish state for all 29 years of its existence, to enter into a coalition with Likud. And he may intend to reverse 10 years of Israeli policy concerning Arab lands that Israel now occupies.
Carter told the editors in a question-and-answer session held Friday but not released until yesterday that the United States is ". . . being very reticent about making any statements concerning the Israel election until we can understand the prospects of the new government as it relates to possible peace settlement."
He said he doubted he would know or even have a firm opinion ". . . on how much that, has changed until I have a personal meeting" with Begin.
Carter said he had not been in touch with Begin since the election and ". . . until the president designates Mr. Begin as the one to put the government together, I don't intend to communicate with him."
Carter also said that whether he thinks he should honor commitments made by then-President Nixon to Mideast countries ". . . depends on what those commitments were."
Those made "in an official capacity, by the President, by the Secretary of State, by the Secretary of Defense, often with the knowledge of Congress, I feel that it is binding on me to carry those commitments out," he said.
As an example, he said he "would feel constrained" to honor then-Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger's promise to Israeli leaders that "there would be no recognition on our part of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] prior to the PLO's recognition of Israel's right to exist, right to exist permanently."
He said he "would certainly not honor" Nixon's promise, in a letter published last week, of $3 billion to $4 billion in aid to the Vietnamese.
"I think now even President Nixon has renounced it, saying it is abrogated by the fact the Vietnamese broke their word on nonintrustion into South Vietnam," Carter said.
As he usually does in these interviews, the President ranged over a variety of topics and added some personal thoughts about the life he leads as President. Some of his comments:
"We have had no indication from (Cuban President Fide) Castro that Cuba is interested in the restoration of diplomatic relations with us . . . I don't know what Castro's intentions are . . ." The immediate end of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which he has asked for," . . . I think is something that he is not likely to achieve." But my guess is that in the near future we will have some diplomatic officials in Cuba and some Cuban diplomatic officials in Washington . . . just as observers."
"I would not ever desist on my policy on human rights . . . I think it is accurate to say that almost the entire world leadership is now preoccupied with the question of human rights. . . ."
The "25 to 30 nations" that have made "very substantial moves toward enhancing the quality of human rights . . ." inform Carter ". . . directly . . . almost every time they take such an action," and ". . . we have complimented them on it, quite often quietly through diplomatic channels."
"I think it is unlikely that we would mount a new effort for manned space flight to the moon or to the planets. . . ." The United States will continue ". . . the evolution of the space shuttles," as Carter has recommended to Congress, but ". . . until the space shuttle is fully used . . . it would be unlikely to embark on a new and different kind of major space effort."
Asked if his election means the South no longer needs "some old symbols of self-respect" such as "Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, Jim Eastland . . .," Carter said, "I certainly wouldn't want to associate myself with the statement that Jim Eastland is an anomaly or an anachronism that needs to be purged."
He "would guess" that Vice President Mondale made progress in three important areas in his talks with South African Prime Minister John Vorster in Vienna last week. But he won't know for sure ". . . until I talks with Fritz when he gets back."
Mondale went into the talks with three "basic hopes," Carter said: that South African leaders would support the United States and Great Britain in efforts to help bring peaceful majority rule to Rhodesia; that South Africa would abandon its claims to Namibia and that the United States and South Africa would better understand each other's points of view.
"We never have had any expectation that we would change the basic structure of the government in South Africa," Carter said, "but I would guess that in all those areas if we don't have any tangible achievements . . . we have made progress."
He still cannot describe details of his welfare reform plan ". . . because we haven't decided the details yet."
Being President is ". . . a fairly pleasant life. I can be by myself when I want to . . . I have spent more time with my family since I have been President than I have in many years . . ." His 9-year-old daughter, Amy, ". . . is as happy now as she has ever been in her life. . . She has been assimilated in the public school system up here and she enjoys it, looks forward to school every day."
Carter said he has ". . . a good opportunity late in the afternoon to go swimming with Amy or to play tennis on occasion . . . I stay in good physical shape." The decisions he has to make are ". . . highly diverse in nature. I don't get bored. And this is really kind of a form of recreation."