FORMER PRESIDENT Jimmy Carter visits the West Bank. Arab students riot. Some Jewish settlers fire at some Arab rock-throwers. Mr. Carter is photographed in Jerusalem; he is wearing --what's this?--his jogging clothes.

Is it possible, we wonder, that the rest of the world thinks we Americans are a little strange but politely desists from mentioning it? Is our passion for running becoming a minor embarrassment? We shouldn't single out Mr. Carter, because other statesmen given to traveling abroad--including the incumbent vice president--are probably equally devoted to running. Our country has a growing number of important people who not only run every day, rain or shine, in their neighborhoods, but also pack their shorts, T-shirt and waffle-soled shoes and con tinue their vigorous churning wherever duty takes them. They run on airport runways and in train stations, through hotel corridors and around and around on the decks of aircraft carriers and ferryboats.

This is probably good for their health, and, among their fellow Americans, it's no longer regarded as eccentric. But when foreign diplomacy or quasi-diplomacy is involved, there are other things to be considered. Is the special envoy's feeling of euphoria upon completion of his morning run really in keeping with the dismal state of the negotiations he is resuming? Will the other participants find his enthusiasm obnoxious? How will we handle it when a high State Department official is pursued and stoned by villagers who assume that any running man is a thief or a fleeing adulterer (especially if he's wearing only shorts)? Are the French snickering at our unusual custom?

It may be time to take a breather while the rest of the world catches up with us and send out a cable to all our embassies: Keep your striped pants on.