Officials in Jordan and in the Palestine Liberation Organization today indicated satisfaction with some elements of President Reagan's new peace initiative as moderate Arab governments said they were giving the proposals careful study.
Only Syria and the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine rejected outright Reagan's proposal for Palestinian self-government in association with Jordan.
Most Arab governments withheld official comment pending a closer assessment of the president's speech and in anticipation of a summit meeting of Arab leaders scheduled to open in Morocco Monday.
In Amman, Jordanian officials said privately that they considered as important elements in the proposal the American affirmation that peace cannot be achieved in the Middle East on the basis of Israeli sovereignty or permanent control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The officials also said that Jordan will greet positively what they take to be an explicit U.S. interpretation of the key U.N. Resolution 242 as requiring Israeli withdrawal from areas occupied in the 1967 war, including the West Bank, Gaza, the Sinai and the Golan Heights.
Reagan, in his speech, qualified the U.S. position on withdrawal, saying, "our view on the extent to which Israel should be asked to give up territory will be heavily affected . . . by the security arrangements offered in return."
The Jordanian officials said they are anxious for Arab nations to study the proposals carefully before accepting or rejecting them. "The ball is in the Arab field and on Jordan's foot. Now we have to see how to pass the ball to the PLO and work together to score a goal," one official said in Amman, Washington Post special correspondent Rami G. Khouri reported.
Another prominent Jordanian said he feared an instant Arab rebuff of Reagan would play into Israeli hands. "The Israelis are counting on traditional Arab rejectionism to save them from a confrontation with the Americans, and we should not give them what they want," he said.
Moderate Arab nations seemed certain to be pleased by Reagan's call for a freeze on new Israeli settlements and his use of the words "legitimate rights" of the Palestinians, indicating a significant step toward the Reagan administration's recognition of the centrality of the Palestinian issue in an overall solution in the Middle East.
Reagan's rejection of an independent Palestinian state, however, is sure to draw strong Arab criticism. Reagan also gave no hint that he might extend some kind of recognition to the PLO, as moderate Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have urged him to do.
Perhaps the most interesting reaction came here in Athens, where PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and seven other members of the PLO executive committee are presently staying on their way to Tunis. Arafat arrived here from Beirut yesterday after evacuation aboard a Greek cruise liner.
A Greek government spokesman announced that Arafat would leave Athens Friday for Tunisia aboard a Tunisian airliner, Reuter reported.
Instead of rushing to condemn the Reagan proposals, Arafat and the executive committee withheld comment after a meeting held this morning to discuss them.
Two of the committee's members, Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the PLO political office, and Hanna Nasr made off-hand comments, however, indicating they saw positive points in Reagan's speech.
As reporters recounted the main points to Kaddoumi, who had not yet heard the president's speech, the official remarked several times, "that's good," and "not bad," concluding with the comment, "not bad altogether."
Later, both he and PLO official spokesman Mahmoud Labadi declined to make any statement regarding Reagan's initiative.
Kaddoumi left for Damascus immediately after the committee's meeting. The Palestine News Agency WAFA said in Beirut that Arafat had called an emergency meeting within 48 hours of the PLO executive council to discuss the U.S. plan.
The official PLO reaction is likely to be a key factor in the position Arab leaders will adopt on the Reagan proposals when they hold their summit in Morocco next week.
Observers here said that a major dilemma presented to the PLO by the plan is that acceptance of the Reagan plan would require the PLO to abandon its goal of establishing an independent state.
Officials in Jordan said intense coordination will be required between Jordan and the PLO leadership to pinpoint the positive elements in the new initiative in order to capitalize on them. Observers noted that King Hussein was sent the proposals by Washington before the president's speech and may have discussed them with Arab leaders during his travels earlier this week around the Mideast.
Immediate rejection of the proposal was rare. One of the PLO member organizations, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, issued a statement condemning the Reagan initiative as an attempt by Washington "to link the Arab area to American imperialist policy and to obtain political and national concessions from the PLO.
"Our people will undermine any alternative which imperialism is trying to impose," it said.
In Syria, Damascus radio declared the Reagan plan is unacceptable because it is "not based on sound grounds or on a solution of the deep-rooted dilemmas of the Arab-Israeli struggle."
The radio denounced the Reagan plan as "a new maneuver in an established American policy that supports Israel's aggression, expansionist plans and racist goals."
Syria is likely to maintain a position of official opposition to the initiative because it does not offer Damascus any role in the proposed new negotiations or address directly the problem of Israel's occupation and de facto annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights.
In addition to the left wing of the PLO and Syria, the other states of the radical Steadfastness Front, Algeria, Libya and South Yemen, are likely to voice opposition to the Reagan initiative.
Libya's opposition stems from Col. Muammar Qaddafi's die-hard position against American policy in the Middle East, and South Yemen's close alignment with the Soviet Union, which would be excluded from the negotiations, might lead it to oppose the U.S. proposal.
For the moderate Arab states, Reagan's speech was the first time his administration has taken a clear stand against Israeli policy and actions in the West Bank.
For Egypt, there is cause for special satisfaction in that Reagan came down clearly on the Egyptian side in his interpretation of the meaning of "autonomy" proposed for the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under the American-sponsored 1978 Camp David accords.
Israel has said it is willing only to give the Palestinians "limited autonomy" and made a crucial distinction between Palestinian control over "people" as opposed to "land," saying that it will not give up the latter to the Palestinians.
President Reagan, on the other hand, echoed the language of the Camp David accords in his speech when he spoke of "full autonomy" and said Israel must relinquish its control as well over the land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in return for peace.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will hold a special Cabinet session Sunday to decide on the country's position on the Reagan proposals, the official Mena news agency said, according to the German News Agency.
The official Saudi Press Agency quoted a government spokesman as saying Saudi Arabia was studying the U.S. proposals and would withhold comment until the study is concluded, the agency reported.