Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan contended yesterday that there is no need for the Israeli government to decide now on a permanent political status for Palestinian Arabs, as Washington had hoped it would.
He insisted the Prime Minister Menachem Begin's five-year limited self-rule for the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip is consistent with U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Dayan made the remarks in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, as he defended under mounting criticism the Israeli Cabinet's response Sunday to the Carter administration's concern about the future of the occupied territories.
As the Israeli parliamentary debate got under way, an Egyptian government spokesman in Cairo dismissed Sunday's Israeli decision as one of "continued intransigence." But he said Egypt was "keen" to continue consulations with Washington "to seek ways of surmounting the obstacles placed by Begin on the road to peace."
Dayan opened what evolved into a stormy Knesset debate over sovereignty for the occupied territories.
"If any of the parties want to raise this subject (of sovereignty) . . . that's something we will discuss after five-years." Dayan said in a speech that was frequently interrupted by shouting from the floor by opposition members.
In an earlier meeting with foreign correspondents, Dayan said that while he regards sovereignty as an issue the Arabs can raise after five years, the Begin government also regards the Arabs autonomy plan "not as a transitional way, not a temporary solution," but as a permanent arangement under which Arabs and Israelis can live peacefully together.
"We hope that autonomy as it is will be liked by the (Palestinian) people and sovereignty will not be brought up," Dayan said. At another point, he said, "hopefully and optimistically, no one would ask for any change."
Under the autonomy plan, Arabs in the occupied territories would gain a degree of political self-expression, but Israel would retain oversight and veto powers and maintain a military presence in the territories, as well as maintain Jewish settlements there.
The Arabs have rejected the proposal as inadequate, a point raised in yesterday's Knesset meeting by one opposition member, who stood up and shouted facetiously that the autonomy scheme would be boycotted by Palestinians so effectively that the only persons who would participate would be members of the Gush Emunim. The Gush Emunim is an ultra-nationalist organization that sponsors new Jewish settlements in the occupied areas.
Opposition leader Shimon Peres, head of the Labor Party, also addressed the Knesset, calling the Arab autonomy plan "this ancient program of Herut," Begin's conservative party and complaining that "even (Begin's) limited view of Resolution 242 was omitted from this resolution," referring to the communique transmitted Sunday to the United States.
Peres said the communique will "deepen the rift" between Israel and the United States and will make negotiations with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat all the more difficult.
Calling the responses "a paper barrier of very clever formulations," Peres told the Knesset, "This government tries to run away from the meaning of Resolution 242 . . . in the same way a man tries to run away from his own shadow, and with the same success."
In this meeting with reporters, Dayan was asked if he thought the generally vague Israeli response to the U.S. questions would invite the Carter administration to impose a settlement. He replied that in 30 years' effort to find peace, Israel has dealt with many different mediators and had found face-to-face talks to be the most effective. But he said if there has to be a third party, "I think the United States is the one . . . and I am not underestimating their capacity in this respect."
Asked about the consideration of Egyptian interests in the responses, Dayan appeared irritated, saying, "We did not yesterday answer any Egyptian questions . . . it was all about answering American questions. Maybe you haven't heard about America. It's somewhere near Washington."
The questions submitted to Israel in April by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance asked whether if a question of sovereignty is raised after five years of limited autonomy, will Israel decide it, and how will that decision be made.
Sidestepping any direct response to the matter of permanent status, the Cabinet on Sunday simply answered that "the nature of the future relations" will be considered and agreed upon by Israel and the elected representatives of the West Bank and Gaza.
Denfense Minister Ezer Weizman, who cast the only negative vote directly against the communique, was noticeably absent from yesterday's Knesset meeting. But the atmosphere of a government crisis that accompanied the Cabinet debates for a month appeared to diminish in the wake of Begin's political victory.
The opposition alignment did not offer a resolution of no confidence, as some Begin critics suggested last week, and sources close to Weizman said the defense minister, although wounded politically, would simply return to his ministerial duties and make no more issue over the West Bank communique.
The Centrist Democratic Movement for Change remains deeply divided over whether to remain part of Begin's coalition government, but its cabinet representative Labor Minister Israel Katz, said on Radio Israel he hoped his party would abstain in a Knesset vote.
"I do not think the division [Sunday] should force the [party] to quit the government," he said.
After all the ideological furor during the preparation of the Cabinet's response it appears that Begin has solidified still more his position of power and that the opposition within the Likud coalition remain inadequate in numbers to gather enough votes to bring the government down.
In Cairo, U.S. Ambassador Hermann Eilts met for 90 minutes yesterday with Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel. Kamel's spokesman later termed the Israeli stand "regrettable" and said it displayed "continued intransigence." Arab newspapers in Beirut were unanimous in criticizing Israel.
It appears likely that the question of the future of the West Bank and Gaza would surface again to pester the Begin government, propably as soon as June 30 when Vice President Mondale makes a visit here to mark Israel's 30th anniversary. Mondale's visit was at first expected to be largely ceremonial, but it was reported he may bring with him Vance and other officials for substantive talks with Begin and Dayan.