One way Jimmy Carter got the Israelis and Egyptians to sign the Camp David framework on Palestinian autonomy was to make it vague.
Within the letter of the accord, the parties have managed to come up with divergent readings as a result.
* The Israelis see the accord as providing only limited self-rule for the Palestinians.
The accord speaks of autonomy for the ''inhabitants'' of the occupied territories. Taking this literally, the Israelis say the territory itself need not be autonomous. In other words, at least part of the land would remain under Israeli control.
Settlements would stay, and increase in number.
Israel would ultimately control security, too. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon once told this reporter that the Israelis would reserve the right to send ''troops . . . into the casbah of Nablus,'' the largest Arab town, ''to go in there and arrest people, search for weapons, and so on.''
The Begin government would press for sovereignty over the territory in the talks on its ''final status'' after the five-year autonomy transition.
* The Egyptians define Israeli security priorities much more narrowly.
They also read the ''full autonomy'' mentioned in Camp David as giving the Palestinians wide self-rule. This would include the right to pass legislation. The area - settlements included, if they stay - would be under Palestinian political control.
The ''strong'' local police force included in the agreement would handle internal security matters. And the political restraints involved in Israeli military occupation would be canceled.
Egypt sees the final status of the West Bank as involving, at a minimum, genuine self-determination for the Palestinians.
* The Americans assume that any workable agreement must lie somewhere in between the Israeli and Egyptian positions. Generally, however, the US view of West Bank autonomy has seemed to jibe more closely with Egypt's than with Israel's.
But for many US officials the specifics of the transitional autonomy scheme are less important than its clearly, genuinely transitional nature - which leaves open the question of the final status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.