IF YOU TOOK EGYPTS off-stated past pronouncements on the elements of a Mideast settlement and put them in one place, you would have something fairly close to the "Proposals Relative to Withdrawal from the West Bank, and Security Arrangements" that Cairo presented yesterday as its peace plan. There are no surprises and no "concessions." The document apparently was meant chiefly to blunt the criticism Egypt has received for not having offered a peace plan to match the one that Israel tabled last December. The United States has been trying to get the deadlocked Mideast negotiations going again by sponsoring a meeting of the Egyptian and Israeli foreign ministers at London later this month. The new Egyptian proposals are, in effect, President Anwar Sadat's ticket to London.
The proposals, we note, do not include and element - a requirement for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza before the onset of security negotiations - that Cairo had earlier indicated might be in its plan and that Jerusalem had regarded as a barrier to its own presence in London. The Egyptians deserve no credit for removing an element that should not have been there in the first place. But the fact remains that the removal does open the way to London.
The Israeli will object to the Egyptian demand for full withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem, and for full dismantlement of Israeli settlements in those places. There are, from and Israeli viewpoint, many other snags. Yet the Egyptian proposals are not entirely unresponsive to some Israeli considerations. There is, for instance, no mention of a Palestinian state or of the Palestine Liberation Organization. There is a vague formula for including "representatives of the Palestinina people" in negotiations during a five-year transition, and for then providing that they "will be able to determine their own future" - words that lend themselves to the serious negotiation that both sides say they want.
Will there be serious negotiation? We will feel more certain of it when both sides stop presenting their respective bargaining positions on Cairo Radio or in well-publicized Israeli Cabinet meetings and begin to engage in private give and take. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin may be deeply suspicious of American intentions, and Mr. Sadat may feel his time is better spent cultivating possible successors to Mr. Begin, who is not a well man. Yet it is foolish to wait for a better moment. The United States has said it will seek to draw out elements of similarity in the Israeli and Egyptian approaches, and to offer gap-bridging formulas of its own where necessary. That process could get under way, however haltingly, in London. Failing that, the London meetings could, at the very least, provide an opportunity for an agreement on how the really serious bargaining should proceed.