The administration assured Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin yesterday that while the United States intends to resume "working-level talks" with the Soviet Union on the Middle East, it remains firmly opposed to any attempts to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute through an international conference in which the Soviets would participate.
Diplomatic sources said Rabin was given those assurances in separate meetings with Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and national security affairs adviser Robert C. McFarlane. The sources said Rabin had expressed Israel's concern about the meaning of a recent U.S. announcement that it periodically will exchange views with the Soviets on regional issues, including the Middle East.
In reply, the sources said, Rabin told his U.S. hosts that broadening the Mideast peace process requires the resolution of what he called "two major stumbling blocks" -- completion of Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in a way that guarantees the security of Israel's northern borders, and an end to the "freeze" that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has put on continued normalization of relations with Israel.
The sources said Rabin, who was beginning a three-day visit here, also gave Shultz a "talking paper" intended as a reply to a recent message from the secretary to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Shultz reportedly told Peres that a U.S. decision on Israel's request for $800 million in emergency economic aid cannot be made until the United States has evidence of a comprehensive plan to curb Israel's runaway inflation and restore the country's economic health.
According to the sources, the response delivered by Rabin included a detailed summary of the steps taken by the Israeli government to cut its budget and brake wage and price increases. The sources were unable to specify whether the Israeli paper outlined in significant detail what future steps the Peres government plans, but they said it reiterated Peres' view that the best way to deal with Israel's economic problems is to focus on ways to foster a "growth in productivity."
While the sources indicated that it is likely to be some time before the administration decides about Israel's economic-aid requests, they added that President Reagan is expected to inform Rabin Wednesday that he will ask Congress for $1.8 billion in military assistance for Israel for next year.
In regard to the Soviet Union, the sources said Shultz and the other U.S. officials told Rabin that discussions of regional issues, which are to be held at the level of assistant secretary of state, are important to the attempt by the two superpowers to find ways of improving their relations.
But, the sources added, the U.S. officials stressed that this step should not be considered a U.S. move toward embracing the idea, advocated by a number of Arab and European governments, of trying to solve the Palestinian problem through a U.N.-sponsored international conference that would include the Soviet Union and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The sources said Rabin repeated Israeli complaints that Mubarak, in his eagerness to reintegrate Egypt into the Arab world, has violated the letter and spirit of Egypt's peace treaty with Israel by refusing to fill the vacant Egyptian ambassador's post in Tel Aviv and by encouraging anti-Israeli attitudes within Egypt.