President Carter's condemnation of the Palestine Liberation Organization has strengthened its feeling of being "locked" out of Middle East peace negotiations by the United States and Egypt, PLO officials said today.
They said Carter's harsh charge yesterday that the PLO was "completely negative" in its reaction to current Egyptian and Israeli peace moves was hypocritical and ignored considerable concessions made by the PLO in recent years.
Palestinian sources also disclosed that "hot disputes" among the PLO leadership preceded the decision to reject Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's formal invitation to the FLO to take part in the Cairo peace talks.
A minortiy within the PLO leadership wanted to score a tactical victory by showing up in Cairo to embarrass Egypt and Israel, the sources said, but a majority , worried about Palestinian and Arab reaction to such a move, voted to reject the invitation.
Palestinian guerrilla officials here said the United States has "surrendered to the temptation of easy solutions" by apparently accepting a separate Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement despite a surface commitment to an overall settlement involving the PLO.
Carter's criticism yesterday was described by PLO officials here as "inserting the knife at the very critical time" when the Palestinian group's fortunes, riding high only a few years ago have "reached rock bottom."
PLO spokesman Hatem Hussaini said in a statement released in Washington that it was "unfortunate that President Carter blames the PLO and seeks to exclude it from the peace settlement."
Hussaini said that neither Carter nor Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin "has any right to decide who represents the Palestinian people" because the PLO "has been democratically chosen by the Palestinians as their sole legitimate representative."
Carter's charges, while hypocritical were understandable now that the United States has swung behind Sadat's direct negotiations with Israel, PLO sources here said.
Paralyzed by Arab world splits over Egypt's go-it-alone diplomacy and torn by internal dissension despite a hardline facade of unity, the PLO feels Carter and Sadat have "locked us out," according to the sources.
Central to their thinking was irritation that Carter accepted at face value the PLO's tactical realignment toward the hardline position of the socalled "rejection front," which is opposed to any dealing with Israel.
That decision, made 10 days ago, was purely tactical, the sources insisted, and was taken only after Sadat made PLO participation in the proposed Geneva peace talks impossible by dealing directly with Israel. "He short circuited our chance of getting into the Geneva action," one source said. According to the sources, the PLO leadership believes that Israel has no intention of making meaningful concessions.
PLO charges of hypocrisy stem from the belief that Carter knew full well that much of the PLO's rigid behavior has been dietated by Syria, its former enemy and present day protector, which has adopted an adamantly anti-Sadat line.
In his news conference. Carter specifically blamed the PLO and did not mention Syria.
Moreover, the sources claimed, the United States has ignored concessions the PLO has made to help the Geneva conference convene.
They listed such changes in recent years as acceptance of:
The Syrian-Egyptian-Saudi position favoring peace negotiations rather than the radical position of the rejection front.
A small state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip rather than the traditional demand for a secular state replacing Israel proper.
United Nations Security Council resolutions establishing a framework for Middle East peace, provided that they are amended to refer to legitimate Palestinian national rights rather than the present language describing the Palestinians as refugees. The resolutions guarantee Israel's right to secure and recognized border in return for Israeli withdrawal from Arab territory.
A Palestinian-born American professor as the Palestinian representative athe Geneva talks.
Direct dailogue between PLO representatives and Israeli doves.
Just yesterday Issam Sartawi, the PLO official instrumental in conducting those talks, was takn to task by the PLO leadership for saying Sadat's gambit was worthy of consideration.
PLO sources here said that recent indirect contacts with State Department officials had foreshadowed the Carter criticisim. "We got the impression that after Sadat's Jerusalem visit they were trying to minimize the Palestinian factor and the representativity of the PLO," the sources said.
Despite the low ebb of PLO fortunes, the sources insisted they did not want "to give up all hope."
"We have little to lose and have been offered nothing," one said. "and we cannot do much alone and as long as Syria and Egypt are at each other's throats."
"We can only live by playing the principal Arab states off against each other, but Syria at some point will want to emerge from its splendid isolation and invoking Palestinian rights will prove the perfect face saver."
The PLO is convinced that no lasting peace is possible without its participation.
But its fortunes have ebbed mightily since the heady days of 1973 and 1974. Then the Arab world was united, the oil weapon had proved its worth and the PLO had been appointed by an Arab summit conference as the Palestinian people's sole legitimate representative.
Now Egypt has decided not to wage war against Israel and all that remains on Israelis frontiers is a Syrian army which is considerably weakened because it has stationed a 30,000 man peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
"If Sadat had just left one line open to the Soviets we could keep the Americans honest," a PLO sources said, "Now all we can do is wait."