THE INTRICATE and disorderly dialogue by which the United States and Israel regulate their friendship is starting to work on the problem created by the election victory of Menachem Begin, whose stated views are incompatible with the kind of Arab-Israeli settlement sought by the United States. To accommodate one possible coalition partner, the Democratic Movement for Change, Mr. Begin's Likud bloc now says it would not change the status of the West Bank without seeking a mandate in new elections. A spokesman says that Mr. Begin, aware of the dismay he has generated abroad, wishes to make clear that his claim of Israeli possession of the West Bank does not mean that a Likud government would not, in a negotiation, yield some part of it.
Mr. Begin plainly is at pains to convey that Likud would conduct a policy not much different from that of the Labor Party opposition. And althoug he still has a good distance to go to prove the point, he may be more right than wrong. Israeli resistance to surrendering large chunks of the West Bank, and to seeing a Palestinian state established there, transcends party lines. The Likud win may not have created but merely advanced the time when an American-Israeli collision on those issues would come.
President Carter moved yesterday, follwing the Likud gestures, to acknowledge the fresh signs of "moderation" and to call for more. Taking mistic view, he suggested that further moderating influences would be applied on Mr. Begin - if he visits here - by himself and the Congress and by American Jews. This last evidently was an unprecedented singling out of the special interest many American Jews take in Israel, and of their paralled political interest in seeing that Israeli policy does not unduly strain the broad national consensus supporting the Jewish state. The point is a fair one to make to Mr. Begin, who in the past has tended to regard the American Jewish community as a brigade available for political duty at Israeli command.
Mr. Carter obviously is determined not to swerve off the Mideast track he started laying out in March. He seeks territorial withdrawal, the political elements of peaceful relations and a homeland for the Palestinians. He feels, correctly, that the popular support he has mustered and the diplomatic initiative he has seized by his public words on the subject compensate easily for any political inconvenience he may have caused the Israelis or others. His purpose is to bring the parties into meaningful negotiations, and he continued to pursue it yesterday, appealing for moderation on the Arab side as well as the Israeli. "All sides of this discussion have to yield to some degree to accomplish the purposes of their own people," he said. Exactly so.