Deep gloom and pessimism pervaded Egyptian news reports about the Camp David summit yesterday, possibly preparing public opinion for the anticipated failure of the conference.
The meeting was billed in advance as the "last chance" to achieve the peace that President Anwar Sadat has promised the Egyptian people. If Sadat comes out of it without at least enough to keep the negotiations going, it will be seen as the end of the peace initiative that stirred such high hopes when he began it with his visit to Jerusalem last November.
All three major daily newspapers in Cairo stressed the same theme yesterday - that President Carter has worked very hard to make the Israelis be reasonable, but he has failed. This formulation, observers here noted, allows the Egyptians to go on courting support from the American administration by aligning themselves with Carter and putting the blame for any deadlock on the Israelis.
While predictable, this carries an important message that Egypt wants to deliver not only to its own people but also to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have said they believe that the United States could force the issue with Israel and make the Jewish state return the occupied Arab lands, if it wanted to.
The Saudis cannot afford a serious break with Washington but if they are dissatisfied with the U.S. role in the quest for peace, they could make some moves that would be counter to both Egyptian and American policy. Tr for add one.
They could drop their policy of restraint on oil prices, or back off from their support of the dollar, or increase their pressure on Sadat to abandon his go-it-alone diplomacy and return to the Arab fold.
Saudi officials in Cairo for an Arab League meeting said Saudi Arabia believes the disarray in Arab ranks must be ended and that the Saudis are prepared to seek a rapprochement between Egypt and Syria if the news from Camp David is discouraging. Several Saudi newspapers called this week for an Arab summit conference to draft a unified Arab strategy for dealing with Israel. This is the last thing Sadat wants, but something he may not be able to resist if he comes up empty-handed at Camp David.
Judging by yesterday's accounts from Egyptian correspondents at the conference, that is a distinct possibility.
"The summit is expected to last until Friday but prospects for success are bleak," said the mass-circulation Al Akhbar. "American sources said that President Carter is exerting gigantic efforts, but still the differences are too deep and are not expected to be overcome during the few hours to come."
The newspaper Al Gamhouria said that "President Carter turned down the proposals of the Israeli delegation because they contained nothing new Observers said the intransigence of (Israeli Prime Minister Menachem) Begin threatens the conference with failure."
According to Al Ahram, probably the most influential of the Cairo papers, "All reports from Camp David, though conflicting, have been unanimous that the conference is running through serious obstacles. Carter's efforts with Begin have not been fruitful so far in changing his attitude in a way that would enable the conference to achieve positive results."
The Associated Press reported from Tel Aviv :
Prime Minister Begin's spokesman called the gloomy Egyptian press comment exaggerated.
"The pessimistic reports from Camp David in the Egyptian press don't truly describe the reality here," Dan Pattir, who also is Begin's press adviser, told Israel Radio from the summit site.
He said in a telephone interview that while there may have been cause for such reports following last week's meetings between Carter, Sadat and Begin, "in the meantime, things have changed, and the pessimism reported in the Egyptian press is exaggerated."