Israeli-Egyptian negotiations on autonomy for Palestinians on the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip appear to have reached a deadlock. Less than three months before the May 26 target date set by the Camp David agreements, Israeli, Egyptian, and United States negotiators seem satisfied simply to maintain a public image of progress. But for the moment, stalemate seems on display more than progress.
Last month, Israel and Egypt put their respective autonomy proposals on the negotiating table. Egypt maintains that the Palestinian problem is the core of the Middle East conflict. Therefore the Egyptians demand "full autonomy" for the Palestinians as a stepping stone toward their exercising "the right of self- determination."
Israel's definition of "full autonomy," however, falls far short of the Egyptian and US conceptions. The Israelis, for instance, are prepared to allow the Palestinians to handle their own agricultural affairs, but refuse to concede control of the water resources and state lands to an elected Palestinian self-governing authority.
The Israelis fear that the Midddle East will remain volatile even after the Palestinian problem has been solved. Moreover, they are convinced that Palestinian aspirations will be satisfied only when a "secular democratic state" has been established on the ruins of the State of Israel.
They see an independent or semi-independent Palestinian entity on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as the first step toward the destruction of the Jewish state.
Diplomats and political analysts maintain that only new US proposals could offer a way out of the present stalemate. However, during two days of talks in The Hague, Feb. 27 and 28, President Carter's special ambassador Sol Linowitz, is said to have refrained from launching new ideas.