Less than a week after the Palestinian guerrilla movement formally overcame its differences, only Israeli propaganda seems prepared to take the nominal hard-line policy seriously.
Influential guerrilla officials privately concrede that pure tactics dictated the alignment in Tripoli of Yasser Arafat's umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization with the hard-line theses of the minority "rejection front" that opposes any dealings with Israel.
Those tactics reflected the guerrilla movement's impotence in the face of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's go-it-alone dealings with Israel.
As long as there was movement toward a Geneva conference, moderate Palestinians felt that the would have a role in reaching a Middle East settlement. Now that direct Egyptian-Israeli talks have superseded, at least temporarily, the Geneva plans, Palestinians feel their hopes for participation have faded.
"As long as the danger of a separate Egyptian-Israeli peace continues" an articulate Palestinian guerrilla official predicted, "there'll be a high level of cooperation "between Arafat and Dr. George Habash, "rejectionist" leader of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. "They've got nothing to lose."
Others are more cynical.
"If the Israelis give them the very smallest crumb, the other Arabs will snaps at it," said a Lebanese with long experience in dealing with the Palestinians, "and Arafat will be at the head of the line."
Just what such a minimum concession might involve is hard to pin down, but observers are persuaded that the PLO would settle for the participation of almost any Palestinians in a future peace negotiating team as long as they are not opposed to the PLO.
Habash is well aware of the possibility of new negotiations. In Tripoli he said the possibility "was in the refrigerator and . . . one day it can be taken
Even now, accordrding to informed Palestinian sources, Arafat has gone out of his way to maintain side channel contacts with Sadat, despite the Egyptian leaders's denigrating public descriptions of the guerillas as "divided and defeated" Cafe Layabouts.
Specifically, Arafat was said to have informed Sadat that he favored a softer line than that of the Palestinians' Tripoli communique.
Central to Arafat's thinking was a desire not to provide Sadat with any pretext for pushing ahead with a separate peace. Nor have the Palestinians abandoned their lingering suspicions toward their main present ally. Syria. They remember the Syrian army's no-nonsence stifling of the guerillas in the Lebanese civil war last year.
Such realism reflects what Palestinians freely - if private - concede as the low point in PLO fortunes. For a movement that was crushed in Jordon in 1970, then weakened again in the Lebanese civil war, that is no small admission.
Realism also explains why Arafat remains the indispensable leader - the only man capable of surviving set-back after setback - despite now ritual critism that he is too accommodating to the Arab states on which the guerillas depend for haven and financing.
With Egypt all but formally out of the military lineup - and with Iraq refusing to help fill the void - Palestinian guerilla sources admit that the PLO and Syria are in a "very weak position."
"We cannot make war and we cannot make peace," a Palestinian official said, "and in fact we cannot even threaten to do either."
Palestinian guerillas fear Sadat will arrange for the Israel-occupied West Bank of the Jordon to be turned into a kind of Israel-dominated "Palestinian Bantustan" rather an independ ministate.
One recurring nightmare involves broad framework involving an Israch Sadat and the Israelis agreging to a withdrawal from the West Bank that would leave the territory's eventual disposition up to the Arabs.
The Guerillas obviously fear that King Hussein of Jordon would try to re-exert the sovereignty Amman enjoyed on the West Bank between 1948 and 1967 or that the Jordanians and Israelis would engineer a deal allowing the West Bank Palestinians to take over to the exclusion of the PLO.
Rreports that Palestinian "notables" from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were on their way to Cairo drew scathing PLO denunciations whom king Hussein and Sadat can buy."
Officially, Palestinian spokesman swear that the PLO will never support any such deal.
"We have the guns - not the West Bank Palestinians - and the Israelis have to talk to us," said a Palestinians spouting the official line. "Otherwise we will send 20 to 30 fedayeen in to spoil the whole deal."
Less doctrinaire Palestinians are worrying out loud.
"Israeli plans are diabolicial," one Palestinian intellectual said. Without any military exertion they hope to establish their political hegemony, cause chaos among those Arab regimes which refuse to go along and emerge dominant in the region."
"The Israelis want to continue using the West Bank, but a castrated, lobotomized West Bank as a conduit for their products in the Arab world," he added.
Another Palestinians summed up the despair of 30 years of homelessness:
"We will stay here [in exile]. We are going nowhere. All channels are blocked."
"Until now I always believed the Americans could pressure the Israelis. Now I realize all the cards are in Israeli hands and that the Americans are paper tigers."
Such thinking helps explain why Habash exert undoubted appeal in arguing that despite the "catastrophes" he expects over the next one, or three years, "eventually Israeli will be beaten."