The decision to call Israeli peace negotiators home from Washington reflects growing anxiety here over the turn the talks with Egypt have taken and political differences within the Israeli government.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin acceded to Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan's request to return to report to the Cabinet only after first arguing against the recall, partly to avoid generating an atmosphere of crisis and partly to keep strategy firmly in his own control and out of the hands of the 19-member Cabinet, government officials said.
The Cabinet, some of whose members have begun challenging Israel's policy in the talks, met for three hours yesterday under the guise of a classified defense committee, thereby closing off public comment on the deliberations. But the issue of bringing back Dayan and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman for an assessment of the treaty talks is known to have come up.
Governement sources said there is a growing concern in the Cabinet over a series of new proposals reportedly raised by Egypt, and also over the financial burden Israel will assume once it begins withdrawing its military bases and civilian settlements from the Sinai Peninsula.
The Egyptian proposals that have caused the most concern deal with linkage of the bilateral peace treaty to a comprehensive solution to the problem of Palestinian self-determination on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and with the timetable for establishing full normal relations between Egypt and Israel.
Some Cabinet members also are known to be anxious about reported Egyptian attempts to force a review of the treaty after five years and about Egyptian compensation to Israel for Sinai oil fields and other capital investments in the occupied territory.
In an interview broadcast in Hebrew on Israeli television last night, Dayan said he planned to stay two or three days only, but felt the talks should be elevated "to the level of the heads of state or the governments."
He suggested, as he did in a discussion with President Carter just before a meeting Thursday, that problems exist that could not be solved at the ministerial level.
The perception here among a number of Israeli officials is that Egypt has produced enough surprises to warrant a reevaluation and even a hardening of Israel's bargaining positioning.
When asked to characterize the problems, a Foreign Ministry official yesterday said. "There are differences in spirit.
"All kinds of things are putting into question the sincerity of the Egyptians, in a sense. For example, at Camp David there was talk of total normalization of relations. Now there is talk of not exchanging an amabassador, but someone of a lower level," he said.
Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai said after the Cabinet meeting, "I can tell you that there are still difficulties ahead and I think Israel should take a firmer stand on the talks in Washington."
Sources said a hard-line faction is taking shape in the Cabinet, all members of Begin's Likud bloc, and that the faction is responsible for pressing Begin to recall Dayan and give instructions for a firmer negotiating posture.
The group is reported to include Minister without Portfolio Chaim Landau, Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, Education Minister Yosef Hammer and Modai. The four are said to have voted in a Cabinet session earlier this week against inserting in the treaty's preamble a written link between the treaty and solution of the West Bank-Gaza problem.
The U.S.-supported preamble proposal reportedly was the "breakthrough" that caused so much optimism in the first week of the talks.
But Egyptian proposals are not the only cause of concern among government officials here.
A number of ministers were said to be distressed over indications that the United States considers itself committed to no financial assistance beyond the Camp David agreement to build two new Israeli air bases in the Negev Desert to replace the Sinai bases that are to be evacuated. The project is expected to cost about $2 billion.
The Israelis are concerned about the cost of dismantling and rebuilding the rest of the military infrastructure in the Sinai-including early warning stations, communication systems, roads and naval bases - and about the cost of relocating civilian settlements.
Israelis budget is already taxed to the breaking point.
There also is much concern here over compensation for the loss of oil production in the Sinai fields developed by Israel at enormous cost. Israel depends on the fields for about 15 percent of its oil consumption.
A figure of $4 billion has been mentioned as the total cost facing Israel, a figure which Modai said "does not even cover the actual expenses involved on the part of Israel."
Modai also said it would be impossible to conclude a treaty without an agreement on oil compensation.
"You can't complete an agreement leaving out major elements," he said.
Meanwhile, Harold Saunders, assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs, arrived yesterday to hand Begin formally the 14 U.S. answers to West Bank-Gaza questions raised by Jordan's King Hussein. The answers, which have not been made public, actually had been transmitted to Israel shortly after they were given to Hussein, sources said.
Saunders said he and Begin "analyzed out differences" anin the course of the two-hour meeting, but he declined to characterize the differences. The answers reportedly reaffirm U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 calling for Israeli withdrawal from the territories, and reject Israel's annexation of East Jerusalme and its presence in the West Bank with military units and civilian outposts.
Saunders said Hussein is not yet ready to make a decision whether to join the West Bank talks. The Jordanian leader has "no plan at the moment for a visit to the United States," he added.