A disagreement over who will tell the world about next week's Middle East summit conference at Camp David appeared to have been headed off yesterday as Israeli officials said they always assumed the Americans would decide that.
Dan Patir, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, said that it "is up to the host country" to decide how reporters covering the summit will be briefed each day.
White House officials, meanwhile, made it clear that they will insist that the briefings be conducted solely by presidential press secretary Jody Powell in an effort to keep the tightest possible control over the flow of news from the meetings.
The possible disagreement centered on what Patir described as an Israeli "idea" to have spokesman for the United States, Israel and Egypt present for the briefings. But this was rejected by the White House for fear reporters would "play off" the spokesmen against each other, further complicating the delicate negotiations that will be going on behind the closed gates of the presidential retreat.
Patir met with Powell last night to discuss details of coverage of the summit. "I don't see any split or argument," he said.
The summit meeting of President Carter, Egyptian Anwar Sadat and Begin begins Wednesday and has been described by administration officials as a "damage control operation" designed to head off a complete collapse in the Middle East peace negotiations.
Both sides in the news coverage flap sought to minimize it yesterday.
"I don't see what all the fuss is about," Patir said.
Powell said he was unaware of any dispute with the Israelis.
"I fell sure there are no difficulties there . . . that can't be resolved amicably," he said. "I can't imagine we can't work out the press logistics in a way that doesn't interfer with the basic purpose of the conference."
Whatever the final shape of those logistics, the disagreement over press coverage illustrated the extremely sensitive nature of the summit conference. White House officials fear that wide open briefings involving officials from all three countries could produce a series of apparent or real contradictions or disputes over what is going on in the summit.
They have made it clear they will attempt to keep the flow of information from Camp David to a minimum at least until the summit is over.
At present, Powell plans to hold one briefing a day for reporters at an American Legion hall in Thurmont, Md., the closest town to the isolated presidential retreat.
Carter is scheduled to meet today with his senior foreign policy and defense advisers to discuss the unpcoming summit.