President Anwar Sadat of Egypt strongly hinted tonight that the Arab would go a Geneva Middle East peace conference without the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Saying he was "ready to go to the Knesset itself" to negotiate peace with Israel, Sadat said he would accept "any procedural conditions Israel wants" to get talks started. That would exclude the PLO, with which Israel refuses to have any dealings on the grounds that it is a terroroist organization committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.
Allowing procedural squabbling to delay a peace conference would be playing Israel's game, he said, because it is Israel that fears the outcome of such a conference. The important thing, he said, was to get talks arted because "when I go to Geneva. Israel will not be able to stop me from demanding the liberation of the occupied territories or the light of the Palestinians to self-determination, to establish their state and restore their rights."
Sadat's statements tonight appeared to be extension of, rather than a change from, the basic negotiating strategy that Egypt has pursued for the past year - accept the principle of a Geneva conference and peace with Israel, and try to make it appear that if there is no peace it is the fault of the Israelis, not the Arabs.
Egypt has already accept proposals that the Arab negotiators be a unified delegations that included representatives of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Patestinians. Israel refuses to deal with the PLO but would accept other Palestinians. If the Arabs are in fact prepared to accept this condition, it could break the impasse that was threatening to torpedo the entire conference.
Sadat said the Arabs had developed a fully coordinated stand after their recent consultations. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat was in the audience at the Egyptian People's Assembly as Sadat spoke. Sadat recently held talks with King Hussein of Jordan and King Khalid of Saudi Arabia, and said he talked by telephone tonight with President Hafez Assad of Syria.
Sadat was speaking in a televised address to the opening session of the Assembly, Egypt's Parliament. According to the unofficial simultaneous English translation broadcast by Cairo Radio, Sadat reiterated the principle, adopted by the Arab states in their 1974 Rabat summit conference, that "the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," but the time to force Israel to accept that principle, he suggested, was after the convening of the Geneva conference - not before, when Israeli intransigence on this point might prevent the conference from taking place.
"It is Israel that fears Geneva," Sadat said. I am not going to play this Israeli game."
Almost a year ago, anticipating Israeli refusal to accept an independent Palestinian state, Sadat proposed that a federation of a Palestinian home to be created in what is no the Israeli occupied West Bank of Jordan and King Hussein's Jordan.
In the same way, he now is suggesting that if Israel will not negotiate with the PLO, that is not the real issue which he identifieds as Israeli withdrawal from the Arab terrirories occupied in 1967 and recognition of the rights of the palestinians. The Arab delegation at Genevas would insist on that, Sadat said, whether or not it included any PLO representatives.
He said his earlier proposal that "working groups" be created to clear away procedural road blocks was not now under active consideration. The proposal was originally made in talks with U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance last summer, he said, and journalists traveling with Sadat on his recent trip to Saudi Arabia thought he was reviving it in talks with them.
He reiterated tonight that some "preparations" are still necessary before a Geneva conference can meet, but he said there is no time to waste and "the road to Geneva is open."
Sadat stressed that Arab must present a unified front in their attempts to wrest an acceptable settlement from the Israelis. Nevertheless, he said, it would be "premature" to hold an Arab summit conference now, as some leaders have been asking.
The Arab foreign ministers, who are to meet in Tunis Saturday, are to discuss a date for such a conference. Sadat said he had "no objection" if other states wanted it, but it was not really necessary because the Arabs basis negotiating stance - Israeli withdrawal, recognition of the PLO and restoration of Palestinian rights - was set at Rabat has not changed since.
Despite the differences in their governmental systems and despite the parocmal squabbles that divide them, he said, the Arabs are united on these points and "they will be upheld at Geneva."
Diplomatic analysts here have suggested that Sadat is opposed to a summit conference at this time because it might provide a forum for hardliners and radicals opposed to his American-oriented negotiating strategy to attack him for failing to obtain andy results from it.
Syria, while not in the camp of these so-called rejectionists, has been much less cager than Sadat to go to Geneva and has up to now been committed at least in public, to the principle that there must be PLO representatives on the Arab delegatioN.
The Syrians have insisted that Geneva is not an end in itself and that there is no point in going unless certain points are accepted in advance-most importantly, the principle that the Israelis must withdraw from the occupied territories.
Sadat, shouting and pounding his lectern, stressed tonight that his objective is not go to Geneva for its own ake but to get there and then try to extract a settlement from Israel.