Concern is growing here over what is perceived as a widening rift between the United States and Israel over some of the most fundamental elements of a possible peace agreement.
There is also apprehension that public statements by the Carter administration in the last few months are taking the shape of an American-initiated peace plan that is foreclosing Israel's options before actual negotiations have begun.
These apprehensions were voiced in yesterday's Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem by both Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Yigal Allon.
Allon said that contrary to American assurances that there is no American peace plan and that no imposed solution is contemplated, "sporadic statements voiced by different levels in the U.S. administration" are giving the impression of a "comprehensive plan."
Since many elements in this plan appear to be closer to the Arab position than to Israel's, he said he fears that their public declaration would encourage the Arabs to harden their own positions.
Rabin said that the Carter administration's "pronouncements," which Israel disputed, were creating an image prior to actual negotiations of a "defined American plan for resolving the region's problems" and that this would hurt, rather than help, efforts to bridge the gap between Israelis and Arabs.
Repeated assurances that there is no formulated American peace plan are being accepted here as true only in the narrow, semantic sense.
The American plan is, in fact, emerging piece by piece, Israeli sources say, and it disagrees with Israel's position on two key points:
First, the Americans want the Israelis to return to 1967 borders with only minor adjustments, while the Israelis want to keep substantial territorial gains.
Second, the Israelis insist that any future Palestinian state be linked with Jordan while the United States simply appears to favor a Palestinian homeland - perhaps linked with Jordan and perhaps not.
The Israelis were particularly horrified to have the issue of compensation for the Arabs who lost their homes in what is now Israel brought up by President Carter at his May 26 press conference.
The Israelis argue that they could easily enter a counter-claim for the 800,000 or so Jews in Israel who fled or where expelled from Arab lands, but the real objection is that President Carter seemed to be adding more and more baggage onto the framework of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 - which Israel sees as the only basis for peace negotiations - before the negotiations have even begun. Israelis were not surprised to see Egypt's President Anwar Sadat following Carter's lead yesterday by piling the issue of compensation onto his list of demands.
Both the Americans and the Israelis are, in effect, trying to look for reassurances that the other is not going to change the rules of what they understand to be the game.
U.N. Resolution 242, passed in November 1967, simply says that Israel should withdraw from occupied territories - it does not say which territories or all territories - in return for recognized and secure borders. It does not say how these borders are to be secured.
The Americans express the fear that the next Israeli government - led by the hawkish Menachem Begin, who believes that the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River should belong to Israel - will either renounce the U.N. Resolution or interpret it so narrowly as to make negotiations impossible.
The fear the Israelis express is that the Americans are going to interpret 242 so broadly as to force Israel to accept what is basically the Arab position on territory and the Palestinian homeland, which 242 does not mention. They say that by going public with an American plan, instead of leaving it up to the parties themselves to negotiate, Washington is forcing Israel's hand.
Even before Begin's hawkish Likud Party was elected, there was a growing opinion here that the United States had been allowed to take advantage of Israel's political uncertainties. The Labor government leaned over backward to avoid confrontations with Washington before the elections.
Now it is argued that "sweeping our objections under the rug," as one Israeli official put it, was a disservice both to Israel and to the Carter administration, "because it allowed them to believe we might eventually swallow these positions which no elected Israeli government could ever accept."