Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made his latest dramatic move yesterday less out of sudden pique than by design, to precipitate American pressure on Israel, probably at a Washington summit conference.
That is the judgment of many diplomatic sources in Egypt and elsewhere. If Carter administration strategists share that assessment, they are not saying so. It would mean that Sadat's action was aimed as much at influencing President Carter as it was at Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin.
Since the Ismalia meeting between Sadat and Begin on Christmas Day there has been mounting evidence that Sadat feared that his peace initiative was bogging down in diplomatic haggling. For more than a week Sadat has signaled that he must break out of that pattern, with some new "electric shock" action.
Egyptian sources have said that Sadat became convinced that he must re-involve President Carter in personal action to induce Begin to come to terms on a peace statement, probably at a Carter-Begin-Sadat summit conference in Washington in late February.
Unless that happened, these sources said, Sadat believed his peace venture would floundr interminably, exposing him to redicule, or worse, from his many adversaries: militant Arab nations, the Soviet Union and the Palestine Liberation Organization among others.
As one possibility for meeting with Carter, Sadat earlier reportedly considered accepting an invitation to visit Washington Feb. 22 from Rabbi Baruch Korff, founder of the U.S. Citizens Congress and formerly head of the President Nixon Justice Fund. That would have exposed Sadat, however, to scoffing that he was turning to "Nixon's rabbi," as Korff's critics deride him.
Sadat also reportedly has invitations from other American groups, among them Harvard University. But Sadat is said to have sought a more significant basis for coming to the United States than any of these invitations.
For more important to Sadat, however, than the form of a new trip to the United States were the factors impelling bold action to crack what he saw as another Egyptian-Israeli diplomatic stalemate.
Before the start of this week's talks in Jerusalem, which Sadat has abruptly ended by recalling his foreign minister, Sadat gloomily forecast that they would fall.
In an interview with the Egyptian magazine October, published last Saturday, Sadat said he had "no hope whatsoever" that either the Egyptian-Israeli political committee talks in Jerusalem, or the military committee talks in Cairo, would prove successful.
He charged that Israel's leaders "have failed to realize the substance of the initiative" he launched by visiting Jerusalem in November. Negotiations, he said, sinking into the old quagmire of fear, suspicion and labyrinthian debate.
That interview contained some sharp barbs at Begin. They may have contributed to the harsh outburst by Begin Tuesday night in Jerusalem, to the shock of guests at the dinner attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammad Kamel.
Sadat in that interview tartly said, in an allusion to the days when Begin was assailed as an Israeli "terrorist," that: "This peace initiatve of mine is not the King David Hotel which Begin blew up when he was young. He cannot blow up the initiative without destroying himself and others for hundreds of years."
On both sides the language has become bristly in the last few days, culminating in Begin's remarks Tuesday night that bracketed the Sadat demand for "self-determination" for Palestinians with an allusion to Nazi Germany's invocation of self-determination for ethic Germans.
A Carter administration official privately said yesterday that it must be recognized that Sadat and Begin are extremely tired and have both been exposed to extraordinary personal, political and psychological pressures.
Begin's outburst was dismaying, this source said, but Begin has been experiencing intensive political controversy, including the recent defection of one of his closest associates, Shmuel Katz, special adviser on information policy.
Sadat, for his part, this source said, has been literally operating as a loner, with no intimate advisers influential enough to share his thoughts or to invoke caution on his actions.
Administration officials yesterday were cautioning reporters against overestimating the consequences of Sadat's recall of his foreign minister. The difficult Egyptian-Israeli talks, these officials said, were bound to have an erratic course, with disappointments and even periodic breakdowns.
Other sources, however, including sources in Cairo, say that this American appraisal underestimate Sadat's intentions.
According to this alternative assessment, Sadat believes he must recapture the sense of high drama and international dynamism which focused on his spectacular trip to Jerusalem in order to force an early peace settlement with Israel.
By this assessment, the only one who can comple Israel to come to terms that Sadat can accept is President Carter, an American public opinion, rallying to Sadat's claim that he has offered "everything" to Israel and "got nothing in return."
If this assessment is correct, Sadat has yet to climax his present strategy presumably at Sadat's appearance before the Egyptian legislature Saturday, following his Friday meeting with Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance.