Defense Minister Ezer Weizman said yesterday that there is "no common denominator" between the Egyptian-Israel peace agreements and the future of the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River.
His assertion, coupled with similar remarks by Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, appeared to set the stage for a possible conflict when the Egyptian and Israeli delegations meet Thursday in Washington with President Carter to open negotiations on their peace treaty.
Responding to reports from Cairo that the Egyptian delegation will press for links between a bilateral peace treaty and future negotiations on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Weizman said they are distinct issues and should not be negotiated in concert.
"Egypt is one problem. The Golan Heights is another problem. The Western Bank and Gaza Strip are definitely a different problem. I don't think we have a common denominator among the four disputed areas," said Weizman.
"We primarily and basically and fundamentally are going for a finalization of all details of the peace treaty agreement, that I hope will be decided before the end of 1978," Weizman said.
The defense minister, in an airport press conference before leaving for the United States, was aksed about a statement by Egypt's acting foreign minister, Butros Ghali, to the effect that the peace treaty should be a blueprint for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
West Bank Palestinians who are opposed to the Camp David agreements have charged that once Israel signs a separate peace with Egypt, it will return to a hard-line position regarding the West Bank, since it will have little incentive to make accomodations there without the participation of King Hussein of Jordan.
"Well, I can see in the peace treaty a blueprint of things that should be done and things that can be done, but I wouldn't be generalizing about what we have achieved with the Egyptians," Weizman said, adding that the treaty terms should be distinct from other negotiations.
Dayan made a similar statement upon leaving for the talks last week, saying there are only "two main elements" to be discussed in Washington: the details of military withdrawl from the Sinai and the normalization of relations between the two countries.
Foreign Ministry sources yesterday offered different interpretation of the Cairo reports of "linkage" issue.
One senior official said he viewed Ghali's remarks as intended for "local consumption" and said he doubted whether attempts to link the two issues would present serious obstacles in Washington.
"They said a lot of things just before Camp David that never came up during the conference," the official said.
But another ministry official said he doubted that local-politics was the motive, noting that the members of Egypt's peace delegation from its foreign ministry do not always reflect President Anwar Sadat's thinking.As a case in point, he cited former foreign minister Mohammed Ibrahem Kamel, who resigned in disagreement with Egypt's Camp David policy.
Dipolomatic observers pointed out that if Egypt does demand some linkage between the final treaty and the West Bank, Israel can play a trump card by promising unilateral imposition of local Palestinian autonomy even if Hussein stays out of the process.
Israel's official position now is that any unilateral "gestures" on the West Bank could only be made after Hussein agrees to come in. In effect, Israel has already made such gestures in degrees by permitting large groups of Palestinians to hold assemblies at which the Camp David accords have been discussed - and denounced.
During the 12 years of occupation, such political assemblies had been outlawed by the military government. Last month, upon his return from Camp David, Dayan also suggested that if Hussein refused to negotiate, Israel could arbitrarily impose parts of the automony plan.
A senior Foreign Ministry source suggested yesterday that Israel also could do less. Referring to the Palestinians' threatened boycott of the autonomy scheme, the official said, "If they don't want to participate, there is a certain status quo, and we can go on for a long time, particularly after we sign a treaty with Egypt. It is up to them to make up their minds."