BOTH ANWAR SADAT'S impulsive decision to recall his foreign minister from the political talks in Jerusalem and Menahem Begin's blunt talk the night before at a diplomatic dinner for Mideast negotiators have to be put down to the inexperience of Egypt and Israel in peace-seeking. We say this not merely because we believe that Mr. Sadat and Mr. Begin have made a commitment to negotiations that neither can abandon until all possibilities have been exhausted; certainly talks in their second day can't be said to have failed. We say it also because it is simply unrealistic to expect the two to put aside overnight attitudes and antogonisms and anxieties built up over three decades of distrust and war.
On Jan. 4 at Aswan, President Carter secured Mr. Sadat's agreement to language on settlement principles that Mr. Begin at once indicated might satisfy Israel. In the next few days, however, in apparent reaction to political pressures whose sources is not altogether clear, Mr. Sadat noticeably hardened his own public language. Mr. Begin, himself far from free of political pressures, responded with a defiant statement all the more troubling for being delivered at a dinner attended not only by the Egyptian diplomats in Jerusalem but by the U.S. Secretary of State and 15 congressmen. Nonetheless, the Jerusalem talks the next day went well. The Israeli Cabinet was deliberating on the Aswan language when the Sadat bombshell went off.
Mr. Sadat's dramatic streak was perfectly suited to breaking the Arab-Israeli psychological logjam; it is less perfectly suited to the unavoidably long and bumpy haul of negotiations. Mr. Begin's emotionality comes naturally to a veteran of the underground and the politically opposition; it is not the kind of precision instrument one would recommend for delicate diplomacy. To say this, however, is not to say that either side cannot learn to cope with other's style and to moderate its own.
For the United States, what is essential is not to take sides. Mr. Sadat may well be tempted to see if he cannot cash in some of the political chips he has earned - and earned fairly and abundantly - in the last two months and convert them into American pressure on Israel. The Israelis have never shied from using political jujitsu to bring American weight to bear to their own advantage. But the American requirement is to help the parties keep the negotiating going, and this it can do effectively only if it maintains detachment from, and the confidence of, both Arabs and Israelis. No sooner had Mr. Sadat pulled his politically delegation out of Jerusalem yesterday than Mr. Carter urged him to receive the Israeli military delegation on schedule in Cairo on Saturday. Mr. Sadat agreed. The road to peace is bumpy - but far from blocked.