Special U.S. envoy Robert Strauss filled in President Anwar Sadat tonight on an American proposal for a new U.N. resolution on the Middle East aimed at broadening the Palestinian autonomy talks among Egypt, Israel and the United States.
Strauss and the Egyptian leader conferred for about 70 minutes in the cool breeze of the terrace at Sadat's rest villa here beside the Suez Canal.
"I can say that our views on most of what we discussed are identical, as usual," Sadat said to reporters afterward.
Strauss, aside from praise of Sadat's hospitality and efforts toward peace, refrained from characterizing his meeting with the Egyptian president.
It was seen by observers here as a business-like effort to keep Sadat abreast of U.S. moves on a possible new U.N. resolution mentioning the rights of the Palestinian people in the hope of drawing some Palestinians into participating in the autonomy talks set up under the March 26 Egyptian-Israeli treaty.
The atmosphere here was in sharp contrast to that in Israel, where Strauss returns Sunday morning for what U.S. officials traveling with him expect to be a stormy Israeli response to the proposal for a new resolution. The Israeli Cabinet is expected to take up the U.S. suggestion at its weekly meeting and Strauss is to see the Israeli leadership again after the Cabinet session.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin made it clear when Strauss raised the proposal yesterday in Jerusalem that he sharply opposed it, U.S. officials said.
Hanging over the disagreement is an indirect Israeli threat to reconsider its commitment to participate in the autonomy talks if, in Israel's assessment, any new resolution makes a substantial change in Security Council Resolution 242.
The resolution refers to the Palestinians as refugees with no mention of their "rights." It was ambiguously worded in order to end the 1976 Middle East war but did call for Israeli withdrawal from occupied areas.
Prime minister Mustafa Khalil of Egypt has publicly backed the U.S. intention to propose a new resolution designed to bring Palestinians into the peace process, calling it a way to give the autonomy talks "new momentum."
Sadat also seemed to refer to this after his talks here tonight with Strauss, praising "Bob" for his Middle East travels and his work to give new momentum to the talks.
The Egyptian leader, however, was quoted earlier today as calling Arab proposals for a new Security Council resolution "silly acts." This was interpreted by diplomats in Cairo more as a jab at his Arab foes than as a serious expression of opposition to the efforts at finding a new resolution to foster broadened autonomy talks.
Egypt's official Middle East News Agency quoted Sadat as telling a Chamber of Commerce and Industry group last night:
"We have jumped beyond words and we are now sitting to talk about Palestinian automy. Are they going to be able to produce that in the Security Council? Impossible. Silly acts, and acts that indicate bankruptcy on their part."
The Arab-backed proposal scoffed at by Sadat includes a reference to a Palestinian right to return to the land that is now Israel and to establish an independent state. The United States has made it clear it cannot accept such an amendment.
For the first time, however, it has told the Israeli leadership directly that it probably will propose a compromise resolution of its own, including a call for something similar to Palestinian self determination.
This, U.S. officials explained, is necessary if the U.S. sponsored autonomy negotiations are to gain credibility in the eyes of Palestinians and other Arabs who are boycotting the negotiations.
In the Israeli view, Resolution 242 is the cornerstone of the Camp David accords and the peace treaty with Egypt. Any changes in the resolution -- even in the form of additions -- would be tantamount to changing the rules for application of the treaty, Israeli officials argue.
The dispute with Washington over 242, added to disagreements over several other key issues, has brought U.S.-Israeli relations to their lowest ebb in several years. U.S. diplomats have complained that Begin and his colleagues appear convinced that by resisting strongly and loudly they can make Washington back away from its U.N. initiative.
U.S. officials traveling with Strauss increasingly give the impression, however, that a firm decision has been made in Washington to go ahead with attempts to find a compromise Security Council resolution, even at the cost of increased strain with Jerusalem.