EVERYTHING THAT Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt, said during his stay in Washington made sense. He said that all foreign forces should agree promptly to get out of Lebanon, that Jordan should join West Bank peace talks in a delegation including suitable Palestinians, and that the United States should use its influence to help bring these results about. Mr. Mubarak is clear-headed and right-thinking, and he is bringing Egypt's influence to bear constructively.
But he would surely be the first to concede that Egypt does not have the influence he wishes it did. Its example of face-to-face dealing with Israel for peace has yet to be emulated by other Arabs. They lack Egypt's independence, courage and relative freedom of action. Partly to compensate, Egypt put itself forward as prime candidate for the role of strategic patron of the Arab world. For instance, it offers arms, though not men, to Iraq in its war against Iran. But there is only a limited amount of mileage available in that role.
It would be a relief and a boon to Mr. Mubarak, lonely as Egypt remains in its peace with Israel, if King Hussein would accept Ronald Reagan's urgent invitation to discuss the Reagan peace initiative of Sept. 1. That wouldn't be all. Such a decision would give Israelis the "partner" they have never stopped demanding since the Jewish state's founding. The step would doubtless ignite a climactic political crisis in Israel in which the electorate would have to choose, really for the first time, between holding territory gained in 1967 and striking out for peace. The prospective importance of this development compels the United States and all other would-be Arab "moderates" to keep the heat on the king.
That is not to say that the maximum "persuasion"--the word Mr. Mubarak and, for that matter, Mr. Reagan prefer to "pressure"--should not be applied to Israel. Here there may be a problem. Skeptics suspect that one reason the Israelis are bargaining so hard in Lebanon is their awareness that an agreement there will merely lead Washington to start turning on even greater pressure for an agreement in the West Bank, where the Begin government appears bent on annexation.
Perhaps this will turn out to be so, although we happen to think that Israel has good external and internal reasons to come to terms reasonably soon with the Lebanese. Perhaps Mr. Begin will be able to spin out the Lebanon talks to the point where any administration effort to focus on the West Bank will bump up against the resistance that Israel's friends in the American Jewish community can mount in a presidential election year. By the time another American effort is made, Israel may have poured so much concrete in the West Bank that a negotiation becomes absurd.
We do not assume the Israeli leadership has this in mind. In any event, its strategy should be clear enough soon, from the way the talks go in Lebanon. If the Israelis are playing a game, then, of course, Mr. Reagan will have no choice but to drop the supposition that Israel is a nation that can be appealed to on the basis of reason and common interest.