Enough progress was achieved in the Egyptian-Israeli talks in Ismailia "to move on to the next stage," which is all that diplomacy could logically expect, senior Carter administration officials said yesterday.
The outcome of the meeting between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin is neither a cause "for gloom" nor for "throwing hats in the air," U.S. officials said. They feared before the talks began that expectations were being pyramided unjustificably therefore, they said yesterday, they see no grounds for discouragement now.
What the Ismalia talks have suffered, several diplomats suggested, is a defeat of grossly exaggerated miracle-a-day public relations, rather than a diplomatic setback. The talks did not collapse, nor did they freezeup, diploma's noted, but instead they are to continue at a high level, which by normal standards would be counted a significant development.
"The problem is too complicated to be solved in one meeting," a senior State Department official said, Sadat and Begin "made some progress and now we move on the next stage," the official said.
"I think this is the beginning of a rough road ahead," said another high U.S. official, "but a road on which Sadat and Begin have taken giant steps. What is important is that they are determined to continue."
American planners do not regard what Sadat called the core of the problem - Egypt's demand for the ultimate creation of "a Palestinian state" - and the Israel's firm opposition to that objective, as a totally intractable issue. This has been thekey obstacle all along.
The "Palestinian state" demand actually encompasses several issues, in bargining terms.
One is Israel's insistence on maintaining troops for security purposes in the Israel-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River, and in the Gaza Strip, which would be granted local self-rule under Begin's offer.
This leaves room, diplomats point out, to bargin over reducing, supplementing or replacing Israeli troops with other security forcces.
Other issues are the extent of self-rule in the regions, the time to be set for permitting a review of the initial self-rule procedure, and most importantly, what ultimate self-determination will be permitted in the arrangement - up to, or including, a Palestinian state.
Carter administration policy, while committed to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement, does not embrace a Palestinian state. President Carter, who has the confidence of Sadat, as well as Begin, evidently believes a compromise is possible without creation of a Palestinian state.
On Sunday in Plains, Ga., Carter said that "I have never favored a separate nation or an independent state for the Palestinians. I think that they ought to be tied in, in some way at least, to Jordan. That is my preference. But anything that Prime Minister Begin would work out with the Jordanians or the Palestinians or Egyptians would suit us."
Before leaving Plains yesterday to return to Washington, Carter told reporters he received a telephone call from Begin, who said his visit to Ismailia "was very successful, that he was pleased." Asked if he also was pleased, Carter replied, "Prime Minister Begin was very pleased."
Carter said Begin reported that he and Sadat agreed to set up military and political committees and would like Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance "to join them."
"But I don't know if he will or not," Carter said of the invitation to Vance. "We will do all we can" to maintain the momentum for negotiations, Carter said.
Vance previously has said he is prepared to join in the Egyptian-Israeli talks for a short time, if requested. The invitation for Vance is understood to be for the politcal talks, to start in Jerusalem in mid-January.
Administration officials are awaiting more detailed reports today from the U.S. ambassadors in Egypt and Israel on the Sadat-Begin discussions to determine what the United States now can do to help the negotiating process.
The meeting already scheduled between Carter and King Hussein of Jordan, for Saturday in Teheran, Iran, during the President's six-nation trip abroad, now falls into place as part of that process.
Hussein's views about what is negotiable on the "Palestinian state" demand can be significant, a senior U.S. official said yesterday, in determining what is acceptable to the "moderate Palestinians" and the "moderate Arabs" in any Egyptian-Israeli compromise.