Egyptian President Anwar Sadat yesterday rejected the latest Israeli positions on peace in the Middle East, deepening the impasse in negotiations and increasing the likelihood that it will take direct action by the United States to break it.
Sadat dismissed as "vague" and "not positive" Israel's weekend responses to American queries about its views on the future status of the occupied Arab territories. But his tone, in a televised speech in Cairo, was relatively mild and generally patient as he reviewed the status of his peace initiative.
He declined again to join those who have written it off, saying Israeli's action "has not severed all the threads," and he said he was still optimistic about the chances for peace.
He underscored his willingness to resume negotiations if Israel offers any new proposals, avoided the talk of military action that has marked his recent speeches, and omitted any mention of an independent Palestinian state in his list of acceptable peace terms.
Sadat, who has recently appeared impatient and frustrated over the failure of his peace initiative thus far sought to counter suggestions that his talk of war and his crackdown on domestic dissent sprang from fear that time is running out on him.
"What really distinguishes us," he said, "is that we are neither nervous nor isolated in a corner like Israel and nobody will be able to take from us what we cannot or do not want to give."
This belief that the pressure of time is on his side and not on that of Israel may result from the expectation in Egypt that the United States will now be obliged to come forward with its own suggestions for ways to get the talks going again.
President Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance have said that the United States does not intend to let Sadat's initiative fade into history and other administration officials have said that the United States is prepared to offer its own proposals on language or terms if necessary to bring Egypt and Israel back to the negotiating table for the first time since January.
In the Egyptian view, any such move by the United States would be welcome because Carter's views on peace terms are much closer to those of Sadat than to those of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Informed American officials have said they believe both Israel and Egypt are coming to realize that negotiation mean give as well as take and are readying themselves to make, with American help, the difficult choice that such a realization implies.
The events of the weekend, however, are likely to be viewed by Egypt as proof that the Israelis are not in fact at that point and that Washington must put direct pressure on the Begin government.
In response to questions submitted by the United States, Begin, with the support of his Cabinet and the full Israeli parliament, refused to commit Israel to an eventual return of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to Arab sovereignty. Israel declined to go beyond Begin's offer of limited Arab self-rule under a continued Israeli military presence.
Even before Sadat's speech, Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel, denouncing what he called Israel's "intransigence," said it would not deter Egypt from working with the United States to seek a solution.
Thus a situation that has been thought likely almost from the time direct Egypt-Israel talks were suspended has come into being - Egypt and Israel are sniping at each other from long range and there appears to be no force other than American influence that could bring them back into direct bargaining.
"You have heard me say," Sadat said in an address to the Arab Socialist Union that was devoted mostly to domestic politics, "that we are prepared to discuss any new elements submitted by Israel, elements that would mean movement instead of the standstill to which they are adhering. If there are new elements, then we will be prepared to discuss them in a direct manner."
What Egypt would not do, he said, is retreat from its fundamental position - "the lands of the West Bank, Gaza sector, the Golan (Heights) and Sinai which were occupied in 1967 must be returned. All aspects of the Palestinian question must be resolved."
The way to do that, he said, was for Israel to return the West Bank to Jordanian control and Gaza to Egyptian control, as they were before the 1967 war, with Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians and Israel to participate in subsequent talks about arrangements to guarantee Israeli security.
The Sinai peninisula, he said, "is not a subject of discussion at all" because it is a part of Egypt and must be unconditionally abandoned by Israel."
Each of those points is within striking distance of positions publicly taken by the Carter administration.Each has been rejected by Israel.
Most of Sadat's speech was taken up with a defense of his recent actions in curbing domestic opposition and the press. "Democracy is fine here," he said.
Sadat made no mention of the strong criticism of his domestic policies by his ambassador to Portugal, Maj. Gen. Saad Shazli.
Shazli, fired and ordered home after accusing Sadat of destroying Egyptian democracy and encouraging the Israelis to be firm in the peace talks, indicated that he would instead seek refuge in another Arab country. News agency accounts quoted him as saying he was less concerned with what would be said about him now than with what would be said about him "after the fall of Sadat."