President Anwar Sadat and his top foreign policy officers, in speeches, policy statements and private talks over the past few days, have shown that Egypt's current approach to Middle East peace negotiations can be summed up in one word - wait.
They again ruled out war or the threat of war as a way of breaking the impasse with Israel, and some officials have gone so far as to say that Egypt would not even take part in an Arab-Israeli war that started on another front, such as in southern Lebanon or Syria.
At the same time, the Egyptians have made it clear that they are not going to offer their own detailed peace plan for the region, as Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin has suggested they should do in reply to his own proposals.
The Egyptians have said that they cannot negotiate specific territorial or political issues for any country or people other than their own. What they want, as they have been saying for months, is an agreement in principle from the Israelis on withdrawal from Arab territory and the rights of the Palestinians, with the details to be negotiated by those concerned.
That statement of principles has eluded negotiators, but the Egyptians are showing surprisingly little impatience. They feel that it is the Israelis, and specifically Begin, who are under domestic and international pressure to change their stance and therefore the Egyptians are content to wait a while longer for Israel to make a move.
Egypt has not repsonded specifically to indications that Begin may be retreating from his position that U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 does not apply to the occupied West Bank of the Jordan. Observers here say it is likely that the Egyptians will view this as confirmation that there is pressure for concessions inside the Israeli government but not as a sufficient basis for resuming direct negotiations.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel and Boutros Ghali, minister of state for foreign affairs, bot said last week that there has been no progress on the substantial issues dividing Egypt and Israel since the unsuccessful visit here of Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman in late March.
Other Foreign Ministry officials say the Egyptians do not feel themselves under any pressure to resume the peace talks unless there is something to talk about.
Ghali, explaining the government's position to the Egyptian parliament, said this country's policy was to pursue peace through "negotiation and more negotiation," A policy which means that "war is excluded as a means of settling the conflict in the Middle East."
Kamel issued a statement saying that the important question now was not whether Weizman comes back to Cairo, but whether Israel would repudiate archaic concepts and adopt a new policy compatible with the spirit of President Sadat's peace initiative."
Egypt's position on the issues, he said, "is firm and will not change."
Egypt's U.N. ambassador, Esmat Abdel Meguid, who was head of this country's delegation at the almost-forgotten Cairo peace conference in December, stated that the major reason he felt Egypt is in no hurry to offer new concessions to Israel.
He said the Israelis should "take cognizance of what is going on in the United States," which he said is "no longer blindly supporting Israel."
In a radio broadcast in the United States, he said the Americans are unhappy with what he called the "intransigence and inflexibilty" of Begin. Meguid was saying publicly what Egyptian officials have come to believe - that there really has been a change in U.S. and world opinion to the point that it is Israel, no Egypt, that is perceived as the obstacle to peace.
In the Egyptian view, the world has come to realize that Israel wants both peace and the land. This international disfavor, coupled with American determination to keep the momentum toward peace going, requires movements by Israel toward the Arab position, not vice versa, Egypt believes.
Sadat, having easily survived the rage of the Arab rejectionists and the inevitable letdown at home over the failure to achieve peace, is now in a position to wait.
"There is no need to speak about war because the peace process has not so far failed," he told reporters after his Friday prayers at a mosque in Aswan.
The next day he told a group of visiting Americans that he had told Weizman that he was not satisfied with Israel's positions either on the Palestinian question or on the future of the occupied Sinai Peninsula. But he said, he had "promised the Israeli people that the October war [of 1973] would be the last war and informed them that Israeli has got the right to live securely."
In Sadat's view, the Israelis have still not understood the implications of these moves on his part, but, he said," when they are ready for peace, I am ready for peace, but not at the expense of our lands and sovereignty."