The morning of April 26
The easiest way to understand the latest round of rioting, violence, and bloodshed between Israel and its Arab subjects in Palestine is to note what the situation in the Middle East will be on the morning of April 26.
If present trends continue the sun will go up on that morning with all Israeli troops back behind the pre-1967 frontiers between Israel and Egypt. The Egyptian flag will be flying again over the Sinai peninsula. The Camp David agreement will have been fulfilled so far as peace between Egypt and Israel is concerned.
But so far as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the 1.2 million Arab inhabitants of those occupied territories are concerned the story will be the reverse.
Under Camp David it was expected that those Arabs of the occupied territories would by this time be self-governing and living under Arab law, Arab police, and political leaders of their own choosing. Camp David, an agreement negotiated under American guidance and signed by an American President, promised those Arabs ''full autonomy'' to be achieved during a five-year transition period which would begin once an autonomy agreement was in place.
But the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza are farther away from autonomy today than they have been at any time since they were occupied by Israeli troops during the Six Day war of 1967.
Over and over again during the intervening years the Arabs have been promised their liberation by the nations of the world. Resolution 242 of the UN called for withdrawal of Israeli forces from ''occupied territories.'' It was adopted unanimously on Nov. 22, 1967.
Resolution 338 of the UN Security Council called for implementation of 242. It was dated Oct.22, 1973. It was adopted unanimously.
The Camp David agreement is dated Sept.17, 1978. It promised ''full autonomy'' to the West Bank and Gaza Arabs.
During the previous year, 1976, the then Labor Party government of Israel had authorized free elections among the Arabs. Those elections set up local city governments under Arab mayors chosen by the Arabs themselves. It marked the beginning of local self-government for the Arabs. It built the foundations upon which some day a regional Arab political organization could come into being.
From the election of the Arab mayors in 1976 and Camp David in 1978 until recent times there was relative peace on the West Bank and in Gaza. The Arabs lived on hope that the outside world's promise to them of liberation might someday be realized.
But that expectation declined beginning in November of last year. On Nov. 1 Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon appointed a new occupation governor, Menachem Milson. On Nov. 2 anti-Israeli demonstrations broke out among Arab students. On Nov. 3 the military government blew up several Arab houses. More demonstrations developed. On Nov. 4 Israeli authorities closed Bir Zeit University, a Protestant Christian institution with strong American connections.
From Nov. 1 Israeli news broadcasts ceased referring to the West Bank and began calling that territory ''Judea and Samaria.''
The big escalation began on March 18 when the new military governor, Menachem Milson, ordered the dismissal of Ibrahim Tawil, Arab mayor of El Bireh. This was the first time the Israelis had dismissed an Arab mayor. Heavy rioting broke out the next day. A week later Governor Milson dismissed two more Arab mayors, those from Ramallah, a predominantly Christian city east of Jerusalem, and Nablus, the main Arab city in the northern part of the West Bank.
Meanwhile the Israelis have disbanded the West Bank council of mayors and put the biggest Israeli military force into the area since 1967. At this writing six teen-age Arabs have been killed and one Israeli sergeant.
In other words, the basis for self-rule by the Arabs has been largely demolished since the appointment of Milson last November. The prospect of liberation for the Arabs has been taken from them. They feel that they have been abandoned by the outside world and betrayed by the Americans. The Camp David prospect of ''full autonomy'' has been replaced by the prospect of their lands and their persons being forced into an extension of the state of Israel.
Dawn on April 26 will be bitter for the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza.
It will be a triumph for Mr. Begin for he will have bought peace with his biggest Arab neighbor, Egypt, at the expense of the Arabs of Palestine.
It will begin a new and more difficult problem in statecraft for President Reagan in Washington. That subject, in a later column in this space.