'Remember Camp David'
When new Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres first planned his current trip to the United States a few weeks back, he probably expected to get a fresh push by Reagan administration officials for the President's 1982 Mideast peace plan.
Mr. Peres is known to be open to the idea of ''territorial compromise'' on the West Bank, the area taken from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Under the Reagan plan, Israel would have to return most of the West Bank to control by Jordan, in some form of affiliation with the area's Palestinian inhabitants.
But a speech by Jordan's King Hussein only days before Peres's US visit last week sharply reduced chances of America's brokering a Jordanian-Israeli accord.
Decked out in full military dress, the King stood before his pliant parliament and once again came down on the side of Arab naysayers: ''no'' to any serious negotiation with Israel; ''no'' to territorial compromise; ''no,'' in effect, to any peace plan not fully coinciding with Jordan's own conditions.
Should one have been surprised by King Hussein's words?
Based on the experience of Israeli leaders with the King, there should have been no reason for surprise from the first of a long series of face-to-face encounters with the King.
Israeli leaders have heard from him a straightforward rejection of West Bank compromise. What the King has demanded - and still evidently demands - is nothing less than the restoration of all territory lost in 1967, and especially a restoration of his role in ruling the old, eastern sector of Jerusalem.
The late Moshe Dayan, as foreign minister in former Prime Minister Menachem Begin's Cabinet, was the last Israeli leader to have met with King Hussein. The meeting took place in a private home in London on Aug. 22, 1977. Mr. Dayan came away convinced that the King had narrowed both his ambitions over, and interest in, the West Bank since a previous, secret meeting between the two men several years before.
Yet when asked explicitly about the idea of partitioning the West Bank in concert with a peace accord there, the King reportedly replied that this was ''out of the question.'' He explained: ''It is about time that you, Israelis, will understand what a territorial compromise means to us, Arabs. It means that we agree to annex to Israel a part of our land. It is impossible. It is treason. Neither I nor any other Arab leader will ever give up even on a village, or ever recognize the occupation and annexation of a part of our land.''
A careful reading of the King's latest speech makes it clear once again that Jordan is intent on rejecting any plan involving concession or compromise in the Arab claim to sovereignty over the territories lost in 1967. The Jordanians, in the King's words, want restoration of every ''grain of sand.''
''We are patient,'' the King said. ''We do not care how much we have to sacrifice in order to have it all back.''
Beyond specifically ruling out any ideas Peres may have of ''territorial compromise,'' the King's approach leaves no room for accords on the basis of a peace plan like President Reagan's.
In fundamental concept, the King's approach stands in irreconcilable contrast to the US approach. The Americans - and Israelis - believe in face-to-face negotiations without prior conditions. Since the UN Security Council's Resolution 242 - in the wake of the 1967 war - the US has consistently subscribed to the resolution's aim of eventual Israeli withdrawal from ''territories'' occupied in the war. The wording is important: ''territories,'' not ''the'' or ''all'' territories. But Hussein's unswerving demand has been for restoration of the status quo ante as a condition for any peace accord, and for guarantees that this will happen as a condition for even direct peace talks.
On the face of it, then, there's not much to talk about these days when it comes to Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank: No arrangement for territorial compromise can be realistically foreseen.
And all signs are that, should President Reagan make a fresh push for his own West Bank peace plan, he'll quickly run into a deadlock damaging his administration's international prestige and boosting that of the Soviet Union and its hard-line Arab allies. Indeed the avowedly ''moderate'' King Hussein seems ready these days to negotiate an arms deal with Moscow, while Egypt has just returned its ambassador to Moscow after several years of lower-level diplomatic relations between Egypt and the Soviet Union.
But all, in fact, need not be lost.
There is an option that would serve both the prospects for Mideast peace and the international interests of the United States. If King Hussein's words rule out serious moves toward West Bank territorial compromise, at least for the time being, it may well be time to take a fresh look at the nearly forgotten interim approach of the 1978 Camp David accords.
Camp David has the virtue of having already been agreed upon by Israel, Egypt , and the US. The Camp David agreements envisage an interim, functional accord dealing with the daily affairs, powers, and responsibilities of the local inhabitants and their relationships with both Israel and Jordan.
This is the one realistic negotiating approach at present, leaving open the larger and evidently deadlocked question of the ''final status'' of the West Bank. An interim resolution would focus on concrete problems facing the Arab inhabitants of the area. Such an accord is achievable, and would go some way to defusing the Arab-Israeli conflict while also continuing the momentum of efforts to put together an overall Pax Americana for the Mideast.
Already agreed to at Camp David has been a five-year transitional period for such an arrangement - that is, for a Palestinian autonomy arrangement in the West Bank - after which the interested parties will decide, together, on the territory's final status. The precise location of Israeli-Jordanian boundary lines would also be left until after the transition period, taking into account as well the legitimate rights and just requirements of the Palestinian people.
Only through the good offices of the US did Israel agree to that setup and to negotiating concessions along the way. And only through further building on the approach already agreed upon can a new breakthrough toward Mideast peace realistically be foreseen.