The Reagan Administration assured Israel today that the United States will not meet with Palestinians unless the session is guaranteed in advance to lead to Arab-Israeli peace talks.
"The only way this process is going to work all the way through is to have trust between ourselves, the Israelis and the Jordanians," said a senior official, who demanded anonymity.
The conciliatory gesture followed Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres' rejection Wednesday of a list of seven possible Palestinian peace negotiators transmitted to Israel by U.S. officials while the United States considers its own response. (Story on Page 6.)
At the same time, the State Department registered irritation with Israel, apparently over the swift rejection of the candidates and the surfacing of some of the names on the state-run military radio.
"The only way progress can be made in the peace process is if it is based on mutual trust and full confidence," the department said through a spokesman, Robert Smalley. "That requires consultation. It also requires a certain amount of discretion."
The statement also emphasized that none of the parties would be permitted a veto over U.S. actions. "Our decision will be taken in light of consultations with our friends in the area and it will be our decision," Smalley said.
The list--which Israeli sources said contained the names of PLO activists--was approved by Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Palestinians and Jordanians were to be in a mixed delegation to hold talks with a U.S. group headed by Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy.
State Department officials had said they hoped the talks could be held in Amman, the capital of Jordan, by late summer.
The talks were proposed by Jordan's King Hussein as a prelude to peace negotiations with Israel. Jordanian officials said in May a major goal was to establish a U.S. dialogue with the PLO.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said today in Tel Aviv that if the list were accepted by Washington, the U.S. Administration would be violating a longstanding pledge not to talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization.