A new effort to get the deadlocked Palestinian autonomy talks moving again begins here today, with President Carter expected to tell the negotiators that quick renewal of the talks is vital to progress toward Middle East peace.
Although no official appointment had been announced as of last night, reliable sources said Carter probably will meet today at the White House with the chief negotiators -- Israeli interior Minister Yosek Burg and Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali -- to stress the urgency that the United States attaches to resumed negotiations.
Burg and Hassan Ali are here for two days of discussions with Carter's special Mideast envoy, Sol M. Linowitz, on ways to resume the talks on creating a system of limited self-government for the Palestinian inhabitants of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The negotiations, which had a May 26 target date for completion, were recessed in mid-May when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat abruptly rejected continuing the marathon negotiating sessions that had been agreed to in separate presidential meetings here with Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Since then, Carter administration officials have put a top-priority emphasis on getting the negotiations restarted. Spurring the U.S. effort have been fears that continued delay, coupled with such developments as increasing Arab-Israeli violence on the West Bank and the move of America's west European allies toward open support of the Palestine Liberation Organization, could scuttle the chances for an autonomy accord.
Although the Egyptians pointedly have been reserved about saying whether the talks here will result in renewed negotiations, U.S. and Israeli officials have been more openly optimistic. Burg, meeting with reporters yesterday, replied to questions about a resumption by saying: "I presume that will be the case. I am here for this purpose."
He also said he was willing to remain in Washington beyond the scheduled two days of discussions to keep negotiating "nonstop if necessary" if it would produce a way to make a new start on the autonomy talks.
However, he cautioned that the meeting here will be essentially "technocratic in nature" and will deal not with the many substantive problems at issue in the autonomy talks but with such questions as when and where the negotiations should be resumed.
In halting the talks, Sadat cited as his reason the introduction of legislation in the Israeli parliament that would declare Jerusalem an undivided city and the permanent capital of the Jewish state. Although the legislation is still bottled up in committee, the Egyptians have denounced it as "an attempt to foreclose discussion of Jerusalem's ultimate status by indirect means."
Under the Camp David accords, the status of Jerusalem, which borders the West Bank, is to be decided at a later stage of the peace process. However, it has become an issue in the autonomy talks because of Israeli and Egyptian differences over whether the approximately 100,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967, should be allowed to vote for the self-governing authority on the West Bank.
Linowitz is understood to have worked out a formula that would permit both sides to reserve their bargaining positions on Jerusalem while proceeding to other issues, and the hope is that an agreement to follow that course will emerge from the meeting here.
However, even if the autonomy negotiations resume, there is no sign of potential breakthrough on such crucial, unresolved questions as the degree of self-governing power that will be granted to the Palestinians, the extent to which Israeli will control security in the disputed territories and who will have ultimate authority over disposition of land and water rights in those areas.
If anything, U.S. officials fear, resolution of these issues has been made even more difficult by recent events on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Arab world opponents of the U.S.-sponsored Camp David process have been encouraged, by West European moves toward support of the PLO and condemnation of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, to call stiffened resistence against the autonomy talks. That, in turn, has forced Egypt to insist of the Palestinians to form their own state.
On the other side, the Begin government, beleaguered at home by growing attempts to force it out of office and increasingly isolated in world opinion, also has dug in its heels and refused to make any concessions.
This lack of compromise was underscored yesterday by Burg, who repeated the familiar positions that Israel will never permit an independent Palestinian state, will not relinquish its claims to Jerusalem and will not give up any prerogatives in the occupied territories that it considers necessary to safeguard itself from attacks by Plo terrorists or neighboring Arab countries.
Although he did not say so directly, Burg strongly implied that Israel believes Sadat's real reason in halting the talks was not anger over the proposed Jerusalem legislation but an attempt to whipsaw the United States into putting pressure on the Israelis for concessions.
He also made clear that there is growing suspicion in the Begin government of the Carter administration because of its opposition to Israeli settlements policy, its refusal to condemn a recent European Economic Community statement calling for a role in the peace process for the PLO and its refusal this past weekend to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli position in Jerusalem.
Referring to these matters, Burg, said, "From my point of view, I see a little bit of a concerto with almost perfect synchronization in the international debate concerning Jerusalem.
"The American position on Jerusalem is not always to our liking," he said. But he also added that he intends to be open-minded for the moment and reserve his views on U.S. policy for a news conference he tentatively plans to hold on Thursday, when the talks are scheduled to end.